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United to offer former City man a return to Manchester?

53a6c1461bc4b_nigelManchester United could be set for a surprise move for former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong, after reports from Italy suggest the Reds are determined to open talks with AC Milan over a possible transfer for a fee of around £6m.

De Jong is the latest Dutchman to be linked with a move to Old Trafford since Louis Van Gaal was appointed as David Moyes’s successor, with Italian sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport claiming United’s interest in the 29-year-old has increased steadily since the start of the World Cup and a bid might follow suit.

With United in desperate need to bolster their midfield option, de Jong might not seem the obvious option to turn to as he’s not the creative midfielder United have been desperately lacking for years, but the former Manchester City midfielder could prove to be a very shrewd piece of business, particularly for around £6-7m.

For all their lack of a midfielder capable of producing a telling pass and keeping the team ticking, United have lacked a midfield brute for almost a decade now, with Roy Keane – and the pre-illness Darren Fletcher to a lesser extent –  the last United midfielder capable to impose himself physically in the middle of the park, an area where United have been too often overrun over the last few seasons.

At 29, de Jong is guaranteed to a few more years ahead of him, knows the Premier League inside out and would know exactly what to expect by Van Gaal, while his dynamism and physicality – which, admittedly, tends to get overboard at times, as exemplified by his horrible challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final – could be a major asset for United, with neither Michael Carrick nor Tom Cleverley too comfortable in the anchor role.

Amid his reputation for being a no-nonsense midfield destroyer, de Jong’s passing ability – he averaged over 90% pass completion rate in 33 Serie A games last season – is often swiftly overlooked, as is his knack for starting attacks by winning the ball before quickly feeding into more educated feet than his.

Under Van Gaal, de Jong has always been deployed as defensive midfielder, either alongside more creative midfielders such Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart in a three-man midfield in Holland’s 4-3-3 or alongside Jonathan de Guzman in a five-man midfield when the Dutch manager opted for a 3-5-2 formation as was the case against Australia.

Having spent three and half seasons at City and with his reputation for being a bully, de Jong’s is hardly going to be a name tickling their fantasies of United’s fan, but he could be an excellent signing if he came alongside a world class midfielder.