Even at 19, De Ligt would relish the prospect of leading the Red Devils into a new and trophy-laden era
Champions League quarter-final. 67th minute. Juventus and Ajax locked all square at 2-2 on aggregate. With the Allianz Stadium rocking and sensing Cristiano Ronaldo was going to lead them to European glory once more, no-one thought much of a Lasse Schöne corner. Not when you have Leonardo Bonucci leading the back-line. And yet, as the ball floated into the six-yard area, 19-year-old skipper Matthijs de Ligt powered by the Italian and slammed a header past Wojciech Szczesny to send the underdogs through. With one thundering connection with his head, De Ligt confirmed his status as one of the world’s best. And oh how Manchester United could do with someone like that.
The Red Devils, make no mistake, are firmly stuck in one of their darkest periods in recent history. The aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s poisonous reign is still being felt, and tensions between the club’s supporters and some of its overpaid stars like Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, are threatening to boil over. And for all their attacking flaws, United look a shadow of the Ferdinand-Vidic era in times gone by. A Smalling-Jones combination on the other hand, is just a sad parody, and a damning statement of the times.
Indeed, such have been their defensive frailties, that even David de Gea has had an off-season by his standards, no doubt suffering from back problems after carrying this United rearguard for years. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s troubles just seem to be compounded by having seen Vincent Kompany lead Manchester City to Premier League glory, and potentially having to see Virgil van Dijk rub salt into the wounds by marshalling Liverpool to another Champions League triumph.
But all that would be washed away if United can strike a deal for De Ligt. Indeed, according to Spanish publication Sport (via Sport Witness), the Red Devils are one of the ‘top contenders’ for the Ajax captain’s signature, and that they have ‘significantly improved’ their offer for the centre-back.
When United stood by and watched Jurgen Klopp splash a world-record fee for a defender in Van Dijk, the whole world bore witness to one of the most remarkable transformations of a side this decade. Even at 19, De Ligt’s performances in the big games and big moments this season suggest he could have a similar effect at Old Trafford.
When Pogba made his return to United for £89m, it was seen as one of the biggest signings in the side’s history. Not just because of the money involved, but because of the impact it was hoped he would make. Whilst the Frenchman has fallen well short of those standards, De Ligt’s temperament at leading at a young Ajax side to within a minute of a Champions League final, shows a level of maturity and responsibility that would see him embrace the spotlight at the Theatre of Dreams.
De Ligt’s own dream of a showpiece final in Madrid might have ended in dramatic circumstances, but for United, their own hope of getting back into the elite of world football stands on the shoulders of them making this teenage Dutchman their new ‘Van Dijk’. And at whatever the price it costs.
United fans, how important could signing De Ligt be for the future of the club? Would you back a big-money move for the defender? If not, why not? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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