February 29, 2024

On Sunday night, De Jong was in charge – and scored the final goal – in Barca’s 6-0 Joan Gamper Trophy thrashing of Pumas UNAM.

He came on as a substitute and returned to his usual position in midfield after a string of appearances playing as a central defender.

And one piece of play in particular sent fans into a frenzy, with De Jong showing that he is a level above United’s current attacking midfielders.

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

He received the ball from Jordi Alba and was immediately pressed by Barca legend and former team-mate Dani Alves.

But he turned his body beautifully to send Alves, 39, back to Sevilla with a deft turn. He then continued to drive through the middle, past another opponent before playing a superb defence-splitting pass which should have brought a goal for the home side.

Earlier, Fred and McTominay were well below the mark as Erik ten Hag’s United lost 2-1 at home to Brighton in their opening game of the season.

And if they weren’t already, United fans are well aware of the stark contrast in quality:

De Jong completed the scoring in the 84th minute, adding to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

United, meanwhile, completed their first outing of the new campaign with Christian Eriksen and Donnie van de Beek in midfield.

“McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, it’s ridiculous,” he told Premier League producers.

“The quality in the middle of the pitch was really bad.

“I was happy he wasn’t sent off [for a high challenge] but i think he was a bit lucky. He’s running with the ball again, absolutely ridiculous. It could easily have been a red card. The quality in the middle of the pitch has not been good enough, but we have seen that in recent years with these two players.

“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] I should go with just one of those, but even one of those is probably too many.

“Fred gives the ball all the time and McTominay tries to run with the ball all the time and then gives it away. Give it to your best players! It is not that hard. It’s criminal on a day like today.”

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