Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United chase risks repeat of failed Cesc Fabregas pursuit in 2013

A new manager is in charge of Manchester United, with a new chief executive behind the scenes. Now the Red Devils are chasing a Barcelona midfielder who does not want to join.

This was the story of Manchester United’s summer of 2013 – and it is also the present situation in 2022. No wonder fans are concerned amid an ongoing pursuit of Frenkie de Jong.

2013 was a total disaster of a summer for Manchester United, where David Moyes’ only signing ended up being Marouane Fellaini, having wasted weeks trying to sign Cesc Fabregas.

United need to be far more agile this time around and set a time limit on the De Jong chase, before it derails Erik ten Hag’s first summer in charge.

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Revisiting the failed Cesc Fabregas pursuit in 2013

United identified Cesc Fabregas as David Moyes’ top summer target in 2013. This came with a mistaken feeling Fabregas was ‘gettable’, despite Barcelona losing Thiago Alcantara to Bayern the same summer – who David Moyes turned down the chance to sign.

United did not read the situation. The Guardian reported how Barcelona rejected United’s offers, with bids of £26 million and £30 million rejected, with Ed Woodward personally leading negotiations.

Fabregas told BBC Sport that he had no intention of leaving: “Triumphing in Barcelona has been my dream since I was a child. I am very happy at Barcelona and I haven’t spoken to any other club in the last two years.

“Stories have been invented. I was never given any sign from the club to make me think they didn’t want me, I have always felt wanted here.”

David Moyes felt otherwise, quoted by The Express: “We thought we were taking him to Manchester United. We spoke to him at the time, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

11 months later Fabregas signed with Chelsea – for £30 million. By this time Moyes had been sacked and United were out of the running after finishing seventh.

By this time it had evidently been made clear to the midfielder by Barcelona he should leave. But that wasn’t the case in 2013.

The big error United made was concentrating so much attention on him, and another simultaneous overly-ambitious swoop to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham. Both failed – and United’s entire summer became consumed by it.

This all dragged on through July 2013 and into August, with United kicking off Moyes’ debut season with no new signings. The same situation can’t be repeated again. United ideally want new faces before pre-season in 2022.

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United must set De Jong deadline

The Frenkie de Jong situation bears a few hallmarks with the failed Fabregas pursuit in 2013. The Dutch midfielder has been quite clear he does not want to leave Barcelona. This would only change if club management told him he must go, and this has not happened so far.

The De Jong situation kicked up a level on May 11, when Gerard Romero claimed a move to United was ’95 per cent done’. This was clearly a wild overestimate based on the way the player has since shut it down.

We are almost exactly a month on. Fabrizio Romano reported last week direct negotiations with Barcelona have just begun, with Barcelona valuing him at £72 million.

If United get their man, De Jong could be worth it. Erik ten Hag knows how to use him, and his performance for the Netherlands against Belgium last week showed the midfielder is the real deal.

But there has to be a deadline, where United say ‘no more’, and walk away if a deal isn’t happening. It’s still early June, but United need progress. Midfield is the major priority this summer, and progress needs to be made.

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

The summer won’t end up as disastrously as 2013, surely, but the earlier Ten Hag gets his new players in, the better for everybody.

If a deal for De Jong is struck by the end of the month, or even early July, the patience and persistence United have shown will have paid off. However, the failed Cesc Fabregas pursuit in 2013 is a real reminder that this chase could backfire, if there aren’t encouraging signs soon.

United are coming off the club’s worst Premier League season, with a lower points total than the one Moyes ended up with. The team cannot afford to waste this transfer window, under any circumstances. But repeating a mistake we have already seen play out, would be unforgivable.

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