Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has warned Jurrien Timber that he must continue playing regularly if he wants a spot in his 2022 World Cup squad. His comments follow reports suggesting Timber is stuttering over a move to Manchester United due to concerns over minutes ahead of the winter tournament in Qatar.
The 20-year-old defender has emerged as one of Erik ten Hag’s priority signings in his first transfer window as United manager. However, the club’s former boss, Van Gaal, could play a detrimental role in their plans as he prepares to guide the Netherlands into November’s World Cup.
Ahead of Wednesday’s Nations League clash with Wales, Van Gaal claimed Timber wouldn’t be ‘wise’ to leave Ajax, where he’s guaranteed regular game time after a sensational season under Ten Hag, this summer. He told reporters: “He’s not so wise [if he joins United], I think. He has to play.”
Van Gaal’s stance on Timber’s move will worry United fans, especially after Dutch outlet De Telegraaf reported he was ‘leaning towards’ an Ajax stay last week. He is said to hold fears over whether he would be as important a player under Ten Hag at Old Trafford as he was in Amsterdam last season.
Ten Hag is likely keen to reunite with Timber because of his versatility at the start of a significant rebuild in Manchester. The Dutch defender is a natural centre-back but also shone as a right-back when called upon as Ajax lifted their latest Dutch Eredivisie title last term.
Both are problem positions at United that Ten Hag will want to solve, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe all in the shop window this summer. In a summer where funds are limited, thanks to no Champions League football next season, the desire to splash a fee no higher than £40million on a player capable of performing both roles is unsurprisingly enticing.
Despite making his stance on whether Timber should join Ten Hag’s revolution this summer clear, Van Gaal did suggest the starlet has qualities to thrive in the Premier League. “I think a player with his qualities can play in the Premier League,” Van Gaal explained. That’s not a problem. But if he has to make this step now… that’s another question.”
But, as Donny van de Beek has experienced after leaving Ajax for United and becoming a bit-part player under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he is likely to mean it when he says Timber must play. And the risk of losing the chance to represent his nation at a World Cup aged 21 could be enough for Timber to at least delay his Old Trafford arrival.
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