Man Utd left to rue Erik ten Hag decision that allowed Liverpool to seal Darwin Nunez move

De Jong quizzed on Man Utd transfer links

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Manchester United’s delay in appointing Erik ten Hag is thought to have allowed Liverpool to take the driving seat in the transfer pursuit of Darwin Nunez. The Reds moved quickly to replace Sadio Mane with a potential club-record deal agreed for the Benfica forward.

Nunez was tipped to move to the Premier League this summer following a breakout season. The Uruguay international netted 34 times in all competitions, including two goals against Liverpool in their Champions League quarter-final encounter.

Jurgen Klopp has wasted no time in strengthening the Reds this summer, with deals confirmed for Fulham wonderkid and Aberdeen prospect Calvin Ramsay. Nunez has already outlined his ambition to help his new club lift silverware, and admitted Liverpool’s style of play was a factor in his decision to sign.

United were long considered to be among the frontrunners to sign the Benfica star, with the departure of Edinson Cavani creating an opening in attack. However, a succession of events including the search for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s successor allowed Liverpool to steal a march on their rivals.

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Ten Hag was an admirer of Nunez, having witnessed the striker score the decisive goal which knocked Ajax out of the Champions League at the second-round stage. The Athletic report United had meetings scheduled with Benfica’s president Rui Costa ahead of the quarter-final clash to discuss a potential move for the forward.

However, this meeting was cancelled as a result of the Portugal legend suffering food poisoning celebrating his birthday. The cancellation was said to have been taken as a ‘snub’ by United’s hierarchy, leaving club officials unsure over a deal.

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Ten Hag’s appointment was confirmed in April, with the Dutch coach remaining in charge at Ajax until the end of the season.The new Red Devils boss is now said to be prioritising other areas of improvement ahead of a new forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to stay for another season, but United’s need for a new attacker remains. Cavani will leave as a free agent having hardly featured last season, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have struggled for form in recent months.

Frenkie de Jong is said to be the top target in this window, with the pair working together during Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-final in 2019. However, reports suggest the clubs are still some way apart in their valuations of the midfielder.

Barcelona boss Xavi has stressed he is keen to keep De Jong, but the club’s financial woes could force their hand. However, Ten Hag is said to have grown ‘frustrated’ over the protracted negotiations, with the Catalan giants said to be holding out for more than £70 million.

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