Man Utd issue De Jong ultimatum
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Manchester United have moved closer to completing the first transfer of Erik ten Hag’s era at Old Trafford. The Red Devils have opened formal talks to sign Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and are ‘increasingly confident’ of landing a deal worth up to £70million.
One of the many subjects of intrigue surrounding transfers is which shirt number a new signing will inherit upon their arrival. Express Sport identifies the four most likely options for De Jong once he switches Barcelona for Manchester this summer.
Edinson Cavani’s departure vacates the No 21 shirt, which De Jong has represented for club and country over the last six years. Therefore, it must be considered his most likely option if he becomes Ten Hag’s first signing as United manager.
Cavani succeeded Daniel James as United’s No 21 after Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club and reunited with his iconic No 7 shirt. Before James, fan favourite Ander Herrera was last the midfielder to represent the number.
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Paul Pogba, joining Cavani among the free-agent departures, will leave the No 6 shirt behind. De Jong last wore that shirt number for Ajax’s U21 team in the 2016-17 season, and it currently poses as the lowest potential digit he’d be able to represent at Old Trafford.
Jaap Stam and Wes Brown were long-term bearers, whilst it’s also been worn by other club icons like Rio Ferdinand and Steve Bruce. Pogba’s replacement this summer, it would be fitting if De Jong took his shirt number as well as his place in the team.
Amad Diallo picked up the number 16 shirt before joining Rangers on loan, and he could be set for another temporary move elsewhere. It’s a number synonymous with some of the most decorated midfielders in United’s history.
On either side of Paul Scholes wearing it for the 1994-95 season, it was Roy Keane’s number for 12 years and Michael Carrick’s for the same period of time.
Of course, currently worn by one of the players set to be central in Ten Hag’s rebuild, Bruno Fernandes. But after Juan Mata’s free transfer on July 1, Fernandes is widely expected to replace the Spaniard as United’s No 8.
De Jong has previously worn the No 18 shirt for Ajax’s U21s and could follow in the footsteps of Scholes, who spent 14 years as one of England’s best midfielders with the number on his back.
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