Will persistence pay off in Manchester United’s pursuit of Barcelona star?

Erik ten Hag has shown, across a relatively short period of time at Manchester United, that he is a man that tends to get what he wants.

He arrived at Old Trafford eager to see additions made to an underperforming squad that would allow the Red Devils to get back in a trophy-winning habit.

It was not all that surprising to see him raid an Eredivisie market that he knew well from his time at Utrecht and Ajax for a number of fresh faces that helped to raise collective standards at the Theatre of Dreams.

His reward for putting the right pieces of an intricate puzzle in place was a League Cup triumph a matter of months into his reign that brought a six-year wait for tangible success to a close for a club that once savoured 13 Premier League title triumphs under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Silverware

There may be more silverware to come in 2022-23, with markets pricing United at 11/5 for Europa League glory and 2/1 to get their hands on the FA Cup for the first time since 2016. There is enough quality and depth in Ten Hag’s ranks to make anything feel possible.

There is also the promise of more to come when heading deeper into the Dutchman’s reign. A demanding character has made it clear that he will not be carrying any passengers and that continuous improvement will be sought in the most prestigious of managerial posts.

More money will be spent in the summer transfer window of 2023 – potentially with new owners writing the cheques – and some familiar faces appear to be registering on United’s recruitment radar.

Talk of supposed interest in Tottenham striker Harry Kane is seemingly never far away, given the obvious need to bring another proven goalscorer on board, while Frenkie de Jong has become much more than the flavour of a single month.

The Netherlands international was heavily linked with the Red Devils in 2022, with Ten Hag eager to get another fellow countryman alongside him in Manchester whom he previously worked with in Amsterdam. Ultimately, efforts to put a deal in place with Barcelona proved to be in vain.

There were suggestions that De Jong was vetoing a move, but he has since experienced firsthand how much momentum a United bandwagon has built up – with Barca put to the sword in a Europa League knockout play-off encounter – and appears to be coming around to the idea that a move to England may be more appealing than it first appeared.

Unique

Ten Hag has said of De Jong: “He’s a fantastic player and has become even better. He would strengthen any squad in the world. He’s got unique quality.” Those are not the words of a man that has given up hope of one day being reunited with a classy operator.

United may have seen their advances knocked back in the summer of 2022, but they have not been put off and appear ready to chance their arm again some 12 months down the line.

Persistence there may end up being rewarded, with Ten Hag looking to prove once again that he will always come out on top in any battle of wills.