Transfer Talk: United target Timber pulling up trees at Ajax

Sean Wilson
LiveScore
Ajax defender Jurrien Timber could be set to join Erik ten Hag at Manchester United
Ajax defender Jurrien Timber could be set to join Erik ten Hag at Manchester United

Jurrien Timber has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, tipped as the man to potentially solve Manchester United's defensive issues.

As manager Erik ten Hag begins to mould the Red Devils squad in his image, the Dutch coach is reportedly keen for a reunion with several players from his former club Ajax.

And Timber is believed to be on Ten Hag's wish list, after enjoying a sensational 2021-22 campaign in Amsterdam. 

Ahead of the Netherlands' Nations League clash with Wales this evening, we take a look at why the young defender is in line for a move to Manchester.

Effective on the ball

United are in desperate need of a modern, ball-playing centre-back and Timber fits the bill perfectly. 

He is one of the Eredivisie's most high-volume and accurate passers, while also frequently playing the ball into advanced areas. 

The 20-year-old is at the heart of Ajax's build-up play from deep and his technical quality would help the Red Devils acclimatise to Ten Hag's style.

Jurrien Timber frequently displayed his outstanding passing range in the Champions League last season
Jurrien Timber frequently displayed his outstanding passing range in the Champions League last season

Tough tackling

Timber does not shirk his basic duties as a defender, however. 

He is a prolific ball-winner, both through challenges and positioning himself cleverly to make interceptions. 

Ajax conceded just 19 goals en route to sealing the Eredivisie title last term, but Timber's defensive resilience would be tested to a much greater extent at United, who let in 57 as they finished a dismal campaign in sixth.

Questions to answer

Though clearly an outstanding talent, there are some question marks over Timber's suitability to the physical nature of England's top flight. 

Standing at 5ft 10in, Ajax's No2 is shorter than the average central defender and may struggle to compete aerially against taller centre forwards. 

There have been examples of top sides utilising smaller centre-backs — such as Javier Mascherano at Barcelona or Fabio Cannavaro with a host of elite clubs — but United will have to alter their style in order to do so effectively.

Development

Jurrien Timber was heavily involved in Ajax's build-up play from deep in Europe this term
Jurrien Timber was heavily involved in Ajax's build-up play from deep in Europe this term

Timber recently suggested that regular playing time is the priority when considering the next stage of his career, be that at Ajax or elsewhere. 

He said: "Of course, I can develop further at Ajax. I am 100% sure of that, I don't feel like I'm done at the club. 

"I can also develop at other clubs. I am now focusing on the upcoming international matches and then go on holiday, then I'll have to think about it some more. 

"In the end, my gut feeling will be the deciding factor. The picture has to be right. 

"You can go to a big club, but if you're not going to play there it's better to stay with Ajax, and Ajax is also a big club."

Competition at United

Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire are the first-choice centre-back pairing at Manchester United
Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire are the first-choice centre-back pairing at Manchester United

In light of Timber's desire for regular minutes, Ten Hag will have to convince the Utrecht native that he will command a regular starting spot at Old Trafford. 

However, fitting the youngster in is easier said than done. 

United already possess two central defenders who expect to feature in the vast majority of matches in the form of ex-Real Madrid star Raphael Varane and club captain Harry Maguire. 

The latter is most likely to be in the firing line after a poor season in Manchester — but his hefty price tag, wages and status as skipper make him a difficult man to drop. 

Timber may rightly question how much playing time he will actually be afforded if he swaps his homeland for England. 

With a spot in the Netherlands' World Cup squad on the line, it could be a risk he is unwilling to take this summer.

Tags

UEFA Nations LeagueNetherlandsAjaxManchester UnitedEredivisiePremier League
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