Manchester United have been given assurances Frenkie de Jong is willing to move to Old Trafford in the event his salary issues with Barcelona can be resolved.
United are hoping to confirm Christian Eriksen as their second summer signing later this week and the Denmark playmaker could join up with his new team-mates on the second leg of their pre-season tour, in Melbourne, provided there are no complications with a stringent medical.
But United’s pursuit of their other principal midfield target De Jong continues to be held up because he is owed more than £17 million in deferred wages and bonuses by Barcelona.
De Jong is reputed to be due to return to training with Barcelona on Monday but United have been given encouragement behind the scenes that he remains open to the move, with sources indicating that they would not have progressed a deal this far if that was not the case, despite claims in Spain that the player has no intention of quitting the Catalan club.
United - who face Liverpool in Bangkok on Tuesday in Erik ten Hag’s first game as manager - have a broad agreement with Barcelona to pay an initial €65 million for De Jong with at least a further €20m in add ons. Yet the impasse centres around the wages the Dutchman agreed to defer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and how and when they will be repaid if a transfer is to go ahead.
With Ten Hag desperate to be reunited with De Jong, whom he managed at Ajax, United are continuing to sit tight for now but sources insist they have alternative targets they can pursue if it reaches a point where they feel they have to walk away from a deal.
United’s only signing to date is Tyrell Malacia, the young Netherlands left back bought from Feyenoord for an initial £12.9m, but Ten Hag hopes to have added Eriksen to his squad before the end of the week.
Eriksen has agreed a three-year deal in principle with United after turning down the chance to re-sign for Brentford but the Dane - who suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for his country at the Euros last summer - must come through a thorough medical before he can join up with his new team-mates.
While Ten Hag hopes to see Eriksen in Melbourne, where United are due to arrive on Wednesday, the club are not banking at this stage on Cristiano Ronaldo joining the tour.
Ronaldo - who wants to leave United - has been given time off by the club to deal with a “family issue”. But if the Portugal star has not met up with the squad by the weekend then the prospect of him jetting across to the other side of the world for the final six days of the tour, which concludes in Perth, appear slim. United are due to fly home on Saturday week after their game against Aston Villa.
Ten Hag is expected to discuss the delicate Ronaldo situation for the first time at a press conference on Monday morning ahead of the Liverpool match.
Talks with Ajax over the Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez and Brazil forward Antony are continuing but the pursuit of Eriksen is much more advanced than either of those deals. United have baulked at Ajax’s €80m valuation but, with Edinson Cavani having left and Mason Greenwood still unavailable, Ten Hag’s need for more attackers will become even more pressing if Ronaldo was to leave, although the club maintain he is not for sale.
Victor Lindelof said the quality of training has ramped up since Ten Hag took over and that the new manager is uncompromising with his demands.
“The first week was a little bit different from this week, this week has been a bit more intense, with different types of runs and in games,” the Sweden defender said. “He’s demanding a lot and it should be like that at a club like this.
“It has been absolutely fantastic since the new boss came in. He has been explaining very good and doing his practices well. The level of the training has really stepped up. I think he is very good at paying attention to the details - his demands and what he expects from us. If something is not right in an exercise he can stop and explain it again for us and that’s a very good thing for us.
“Everyone has been really keen to listen to the new boss and to learn his style of play. He has been talking to us a lot about his expectations and what he wants us to do on the pitch.
“We’ve been working on a lot of different stuff and how he wants us to do if we’re playing out from the back. You need all players to be involved in that - not just the back four and the goalkeeper and the two midfielders - we’ve been working on a few different options and hopefully we can improve on that.”
Meanwhile, United are in talks with Mike Phelan - who is not on the tour and no longer a part of the first team coaching set-up at Old Trafford after serving as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s No. 2 - about a potential ambassadorial role with the club.