In 2022, Manchester United spent the summer pursuing De Jong, but ultimately did not reach a deal. Instead, they secured several other targets in Ten Hag’s first window as head coach. The coach felt that his options upon arriving at Old Trafford were not secure enough in possession.
The 18-year-old was seen as an alternative to De Jong due to possessing similar qualities on the ball, according to the Independent. Dutch broadcaster TV3 reported that De Jong is not ruling out an exit from Barcelona at the end of the season, and Manchester United is among the clubs interested in discussing a potential deal. According to the Spanish publication Relevo, Barcelona has given De Jong the green light to depart as the cash-strapped club would benefit from a major sale in the summer, considering De Jong as a sellable asset.
Ten Hag has expressed his admiration for Mainoo, stating that the player reminds him of others, but emphasizes the importance of each player finding their own identity. He also praised Mainoo’s progress and coachability. Mainoo has made 13 appearances across all competitions this season and is expected to feature more prominently during the run-in.