Football News

Man Utd rejected Ajax duo Frenkie de Jong & Matthijs de Ligt, says ex-chief scout

By Nick Thompson

Published: 9:51, 13 April 2019

Man United opted against signing Ajax breakout stars Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, according to ex-chief scout Derek Langley.

De Jong has since been signed by Barcelona and will move at the end of the season, while De Ligt is likely to court the interest of the world’s elite clubs this summer.

United miss out on top young talent: Five key things to know…

  1. Chief scout Derek Langley was instrumental in United capturing Tahith Chong’s signature.
  2. However he says the United hierarchy did not act on signing De Ligt and De Jong despite having the chance to.
  3. De Jong, whose Ajax side is in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, has since signed for Barcelona for £75m.
  4. Langley complained to United Chairman Ed Woodward, and was sacked seven months later.
  5. United signed the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Gerard Pique under his watch.

Derek Langley, a lifelong Red Devils fan, spent 16 years as a talent spotter at United, beginning as a local recruitment officer and moving to head of European recruitment and head of academy recruitment.

Between 2000 and 2016, when Langley was in post, the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Gerard Pique and Danny Welbeck were signed by United.

However a number of big players slipped through the club’s grasp, despite being aware of them for some time.

“Players that they turned down? Matthijs de Ligt. We had God knows how many reports on Matthijs de Ligt. Frenkie de Jong and all these players now are sort of around Europe,” Langley told MEN Sport. “Dayot Upamecano, who is now at Red Bull Leipzig, was another.

“This was one of the reasons why I had a meeting with Ed Woodward and I told him that I wasn’t convinced with the competency of certain people at the club. I told Ed Woodward quite straight: ‘If you think I’m going to sit here and just tell you what you want to hear, I’m not that man because I’m going to tell you exactly how I see it’.

“I think it was possibly part of my downfall as to why seven months down the line I was removed because I wouldn’t tow the line in relation to telling them exactly what I thought.

“It’s one of them things in football – you come to accept it. Manchester United thanked me for the time I spent there and the players I’d taken in, but ultimately we could have been so much better if people had listened.”

Before his departure, Langley had two full-time scouts during this time, one in South America and another in Europe, while the rest were part-time.

While United’s reach dwindled, neighbours City invested heavily in recruitment and infrastructure, overtaking United on the local and world talent-spotting level.

Despite his protests for more hands, it was only after Langley’s departure that United expanded their scouting pool. Today the club have more than 50 scouts around the world.

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Langley spots a diamond at Carrington

Prior to his leaving in 2016, Langley tracked Tahith Chong over a number of seasons, before ultimately condoning a move for the Dutch youngster.

“Tahith was spotted when he was 14/15-year-old playing in a tournament at Carrington. What used to be the Nike Premier Cup,” Langley said. “He had already been tipped by our scouts in Holland and basically I followed him at that tournament and then I followed him all over Europe.

“Tahith’s parents would be the first to tell you that his form dipped slightly due to growth issues so at that time I just held fire. I carried on watching him and realised his form was coming back.

“He was on the verge of signing for Chelsea and I managed to convince his parents and the boy his future lied at United.”