Manchester United’s lengthy pursuit of Frenkie de Jong has become one of the transfer sagas of the summer.
The Red Devils are eager to recruit in the centre of the park, and have seen the urgency of such a swoop spike drastically in the wake of their disastrous start to the season.
Increasingly, however, it would appear that a deal for De Jong may not be doable in the coming days, with Sky Sports going as far as to suggest that United have withdrawn their offer for the midfielder.
Erik ten Hag’s side were also linked with a move for Juventus star Adrien Rabiot, although recent updates suggest that deal could also be off due to excessive wage demands.
With that in mind, who should United look to sign before the transfer window closes?
We turned to Football Manager 22 to find out.
The popular video game franchise is renowned for its meticulous detail and authentic approach to the world of, well, football management, and we thought we’d use its extensive transfer scouting system to ask it who would be the ideal alternative to De Jong.
Check out all of its suggestions below...
The Real Madrid veteran possesses the creative talents that United are looking for in the centre of the park, but a move for the Croatian is almost certainly never going to happen in real life.
One of the finest holding midfielders of his, or any, generation, Busquets would bring solidity to United’s ailing midfield.
Another Barcelona talent, the Bosnian has managed to rekindle his career at Camp Nou while so many around him have been touted for an exit. At 32, he wouldn’t exactly be a long-term fix.
Actually linked with United in real life, as well as bitter rivals Liverpool, the Croatian has only recently signed a new deal at Inter Milan, but that hasn’t prevented exit speculation from mounting over the past few weeks.
A superlative distributor with plenty of Premier League experience, but luring him to Old Trafford from Chelsea would surely be a tall order.
Once upon a time, this might not have been the worst suggestion in the world, but at 34, Moutinho isn’t the answer to United’s concerns moving forward.
Perhaps much closer to the profile of player United would actually be hoping to land, in terms of both pedigree and potential. In reality, however, the Red Devils have struggled to attract players of Locatelli’s ilk in recent seasons.
Blind spent most of his first stint with United playing in defence, but his adeptness in midfield has never been in question. Whether an unlikely reunion would ever be on the cards is another matter entirely, however.
If United’s solution to their midfield problems was to sign Lallana, supporters might just revolt openly. The Brighton star is still a class act, but he’s some way off being the man Ten Hag needs.
Sensi may well fit the profile needed to act as a viable alternative to De Jong, but the fact that he keeps on being shipped out on loan by parent club Inter Milan would suggest that he lacks either the quality, consistency, or both to make a serious impact at Old Trafford.
Again, the main issue here could be Parejo’s age. The 33-year-old has been at the top of his game for years now, but would United settle for another stop-gap solution?
A bit of a journeyman, who even spent a spell with Crystal Palace earlier in his career, Campana is currently plying his trade in the second tier of Spanish football with Levante. With just one international cap back in October 2020, it’s hard to imagine the 29-year-old improving drastically on what United have.
A 27-year-old free agent with 33 Austria caps to his name, Grillitsch actually doesn’t look like the worst shout. Several proposed moves have reportedly stalled this summer due to his wage demands, however, and whether United would be willing to pay over the odds for a player who they’ve thus far stayed away from remains to be seen.