Manchester United put their cards on the table earlier this month when chief executive Richard Arnold and football director John Murtough flew to Barcelona for talks.

The pair visited for talks about Frenkie de Jong, although the signing is still not done. It could be argued Arnold and Murtough did their part, at least.

The Athletic reported Manchester United and Barcelona have ‘full agreement’ for a transfer, worth £63 million up front plus £8.5 million in add-ons.

The hold up is at Frenkie de Jong’s end, with the player resistant to a move, at least until he receives money owed to him by Barcelona. But Manchester United are not giving up.

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Manchester United still optimistic Frenkie de Jong wants to sign

Unfortunately, Manchester United fan expectations had to adjust. From hoping a deal would be done in time for pre-season tour, to just hoping it gets done before the transfer deadline.

Or alternatively, to simply hope United draw a line under the whole saga and buy somebody else instead, because the worst option would be ending the summer with no central midfielder signed at all.

Manchester United are clearly not giving up. The club couldn’t have made it more obvious they are still optimistic Frenkie de Jong will sign this week when a key squad number was left vacant, potentially with the Dutchman in mind.

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The shirt number giveaway

De Jong is one of three players Manchester United were linked with signing this summer with connections to the number 21 shirt – vacated after Dan James’ departure last summer. United have since signed two of the three.

21 is the number De Jong wears for Barcelona, ​​and coincidentally the number Lisandro Martinez wore for Ajax.

Christian Eriksen wore the number 21 during his time at Brentford earlier this year. And yet, United chose to give the shirt to neither of them.

The club announced this week new signing Eriksen will wear the number 14 shirt, while Martinez will wear the similarly freshly vacated number 6.

The 21 lies open for Frenkie de Jong, a symbolic sign Manchester United have not given up on signing the player.

When the situation is as complex as the De Jong one, where the player may require a little persuasion to join, then you do everything possible to bring him on board. The smaller touches like offering up his preferred shirt number will only be a minor factor, but it’s still something.

This does show Manchester United have not given up, and are still optimistic of signing Frenkie de Jong. Whether this faith is well placed, we will see over the coming weeks.

Dan is still wondering what would have happened if United had kept Juan Veron…

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