Man City may be about to deny Man Utd their ideal Frenkie de Jong transfer alternative

Manchester City could be set to prevent Manchester United from signing their perfect alternative to Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong ahead of the new Premier League season. The Red Devils have long been credited with a desire to land the Dutchman, who they targeted last summer but to no avail following the player's decision to stay and fight for his place at the Nou Camp.

Erik ten Hag is still believed to be keen on the idea of reuniting with De Jong at Old Trafford this year, with ESPN reporting that a renewed approach by United could be on the cards when the bidding finally opens later this month. However, there are no guarantees that a successful move would be engineered at the second time of asking, which could force United to settle for an alternative target in their efforts to strengthen in the middle of the park.

Rio Ferdinand has already suggested that Chelsea maestro Mateo Kovacic could be a shrewd back-up option for the Red Devils to pursue, telling his YouTube channel FIVE: "It sounds too difficult and too complicated [to sign De Jong], move on. I think Kovacic has got a year left. I like him, he's different to what we've got."

Kovacic played a key role in shaping Chelsea's second Champions League triumph back in 2021 and is still very much an important player for the Blues in spite of their lacklustre form over the course of the season just gone. He also won three European titles during his time at Real Madrid before joining the west Londoners, which suggests that he could be exactly the kind of player to help United in their ongoing bid to become serial trophy-winners once again.

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However, it seems clear that Manchester City are the favourites to sign Kovacic after being given permission to discuss personal terms with the 29-year-old earlier this week, according to the Daily Mail. He is said to be keen on the idea of leaving Chelsea after four years in west London but a fee is yet to be agreed with City, meaning there could still be time for United to swoop in and poach Kovacic from under their noses.

Such a move would appear unlikely, though, especially if it comes down to Kovacic picking between the two clubs as he weighs up his next career move in advance of the upcoming season. It would almost be a no-brainer for him to choose City, where he would be working alongside one of the greatest managers ever in Pep Guardiola while competing for Premier League titles and European trophies on a yearly basis.

Kovacic is also believed to be open to the idea of joining City after first contact was made between the two parties last month, although only time will tell where he will be playing his club football when the new campaign gets underway in mid-August. He remains tied down to Chelsea until the summer of 2024 as things stand but it would not be a surprise to see him leave Stamford Bridge in the near future, with the Blues hoping to trim their bloated playing squad over the coming weeks.

United, meanwhile, have already started negotiations for one of Kovacic's team-mates at Chelsea in Mason Mount, who has agreed personal terms over a summer move to Old Trafford, according to talkSPORT. The England ace is reportedly poised to leave Chelsea after failing to settle on a contract extension with the Blues despite holding no shortage of talks with the club's hierarchy over the last few months.

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