Former Manchester United scout Marcel Bout has hit out at the Premier League giants for ignoring his advice over Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.
Telling a tale which will not lead to any revisionism over Ed Woodward’s time in charge at Manchester United, a man who spent eight years at Old Trafford between 2014 and 2022 has opened up on a plan which could have seen two of Europe’s rising stars end up in England.
Marcel Bout, speaking to Algemeen Dagblad, wanted United to strike up a partnership with Dutch giants Ajax, legendary Red Devils ‘keeper and Johan Cruyff Arena CEO Edwin van der Sar potentially acting as a ‘bridge’ between two European powerhouses.
Unfortunately for Bout – and United for that matter – you could probably fit Woodward’s footballing expertise onto a post-it note.
De Ligt and De Jong shone under Ten Hag at Ajax
“I said to Ed Woodward; ‘Edwin van der Sar played here. Now, create a bridge to Ajax through him’,” Bout recalls. “17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt played at Ajax in training. Later, Frenkie de Jong came to Ajax.
“’Make sure that, at United, you make a deal early on for these kinds of talents, and then you can always let them mature for a while in the Netherlands,’ I said.”
De Ligt and De Jong, a few years later, would become the spine of the Ajax team which stormed to the Champions League semi-finals under Erik ten Hag. De Ligt would go on to join Juventus for £68 million, only a few months after De Jong agreed a £65 million move to Barcelona.
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What could have been?
“(My advice went ignored) because there are so many forces at play within United,” Bout adds, the names of De Ligt and De Jong added to a staggering list of wonderfully talented footballers who slipped through United’s grasp in the Woodward era.
“(The Man United bosses) don’t make decisions, or make them too late. Isn’t that a shame? My dismissal has made me very angry.”
Louis van Gaal, the man who brought Bout to Old Trafford nearly a decade ago, famously told FourFourTwo a couple of years ago that he tried and ultimately failed to bring in such luminaries Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane and even Neymar.