Man Utd TURNED DOWN signing De Jong and De Ligt

Willem Leijgraf
Willem Leijgraf
  • Updated: 18 Nov 2023 16:17 GMT
  • 3 min read
Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Oranje
© ProShots

If it had been up to Marcel Bout, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt would now be playing for Manchester United.

The 61-year-old Dutchman, who recently joined Newcastle United, was active as a scout at Old Trafford between 2016 and 2022 and previously served as an analyst at the Red Devils when Louis van Gaal was coach there.

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Bout had to leave Manchester United last year and said he was fired for 'political reasons.' He settled in Manchester in 2014 when Van Gaal was appointed head coach. After the departure of the former boss of the Dutch national team, the Amsterdammer was allowed to stay on as a scout.

Bout knocked on the door of then-general manager Ed Woodward and tipped him off about a possible collaboration.“I said to him: 'Edwin van der Sar played here, now create a bridge to Ajax through him,'” Bout told Algemeen Dagblad.

Van der Sar played 266 official matches for Manchester United between 2005 and 2011 and became a club icon at Old Trafford. The former goalkeeper was then general manager at Ajax and, according to Bout, could have helped Manchester United to sign potential world-beaters.

Matthijs de Ligt and Erik ten Hag at Ajax
© ProShots - Matthijs de Ligt and Erik ten Hag at Ajax

De Ligt and De Jong rejected

“The 17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was then playing for Ajax, later Frenkie de Jong followed suit,” he explains. “'Make sure that United makes a deal early on for these types of talents. Then you can always let them develop for a while in the Netherlands,' I said.”

The signing of De Ligt and De Jong was not achieved by Man Utd. “Because there are so many forces at play within United, you don't make decisions at all or you make them too late. Isn't that a shame?"

READ: 'Players don't know what to do' - Man Utd boss Ten Hag 'not good enough'

"A major annoyance was the long lines [of communication] within United to make decisions about interesting players. There are now top players at other European top clubs that we had seen early on with the scouting staff.”

De Jong and De Ligt eventually became pillars under then-Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, who is now ultimately in charge at Manchester United. De Ligt was sold to Juventus for a total of €85.5 million in the summer of 2019, while De Jong left for Barcelona for €86m. Both Dutch internationals have been regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in recent years, but nothing has materialised.

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