Jurrien Timber is the answer to Man Utd’s prayers at CB… and RB… and CM
Sorting out Manchester United’s issues at the back will undoubtedly be one of Erik ten Hag’s priorities when he takes over from Ralf Rangnick at Old Trafford.
Doing so won’t be easy by any means, with the side lacking a top-class player on the right and in the centre of the backline, as well as a first-rate defensive midfielder to protect that backline.
If rumours are to be believed, though, Ten Hag’s first move could well be bringing Jurrien Timber with him from Ajax. It would be a smart one.
The young Dutchman is the player the Old Trafford faithful have been crying out for. And not just at centre-back, but in all three positions.
Since breaking through at Ajax, Timber has more often than not been deployed as a central defender, and that would most likely be the primary role Ten Hag would bring him in to play.
Absolutely crucial in Ten Hag’s teams are ball-playing defenders, and with Timber’s technical abilities typical of an Ajax product, the 20-year-old is an upgrade on most of the current options in that department.
Harry Maguire is good with the ball at his feet himself, but the same can’t really be said for those that have played alongside him this season.
Maguire, meanwhile, is prone to the odd error (to say the least) and such errors often stem from a lack of composure and pace.
These aren’t attributes that Timber lacks. He rarely loses the ball or gets caught out of position, and if he does, he’s almost always quick enough to recover.
To be fair to Maguire and co though, their jobs have been made considerably harder by the lack of protection from the midfield, and this is another way in which Timber could improve the side.
It’s no coincidence that every top team has a top holding midfielder. Manchester City have Rodri, Liverpool have Fabinho, Real Madrid have Casemiro. Manchester United have no one of similar stature.
Nemanja Matic is the only player that naturally plays there, and he’s leaving in the summer. Every other midfielder is too attack-minded.
• • • •
READ: 5 players set to leave Man Utd on a free this summer: Pogba, Lingard…
• • • •
Naturally a defender, Timber doesn’t have this problem, and it’s not the only reason he’d be an ideal No.6 for the side. He’s intelligent on and off the ball, he’s comfortable in tight spaces, he can pick a pass and can stick a foot in.
With a bit of experience in the position, he could become the player the Red Devils have lacked since Michael Carrick called it a day.
If Ten Hag wants to utilise his attacking abilities more, he could also stick Timber at right-back, because the side are sorely lacking creativity there.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a very good defender, but more is required from a full-back these days. How good they are going forward is just as important as how good they are at the back.
In this area, Wan-Bissaka simply isn’t up to scratch and has frustrated fans countless times with his passing and crossing. The numbers say it all; in 19 Premier League games, he has no assists and has created just one big chance.
Right-back is a position Timber has played on more than one occasion this season and looking at the runs and passes he makes from centre-back, there’s little doubt the young Dutchman would offer the team far more than Wan-Bissaka in this regard.
I mean, come one, look at this run and pass from a game against Groningen earlier this year and tell us that he wouldn’t.
We've been thinking a lot about who should play with Van Dijk at the back and have decided Timber should be on the right of him, ahead of De Vrij and De Ligt.
With dribbling and passing like this, he really is the perfect wide centre-back.pic.twitter.com/CIClwicKDb
— Clockwork Oranje (@ClockworkOranje) April 18, 2022
Playing for the top team in the Eredivisie is, of course, far easier than playing for one of many in the Premier League, and Man Utd fans may have some reservations given how the signing of Memphis Depay worked out for them.
However, Timber has played at the top level in the Champions League and looked just as good.
Against Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund and Benfica, he was one of the stand-out players, so much so that you can find highlight reels of all three performances on YouTube.
In the first of those games, he was so impressive that he earned praise from Marco van Basten, a man who has sky-high standards.
“You know who I really liked? Timber,” he said. “He had balls that you normally don’t see with a defender, but I also thought he was good in defensive terms.
“He is reliable in the defensive part, but he is also so comfortable on the ball. Look, as a midfielder or attacker, you just want that ball quickly. And he really goes straight forward.
“He conquers the ball and immediately gives deep passes and that is why things are moving in the right direction so quickly.”
Later in the same European campaign, he came up against huge talents in the forms of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez and did excellently against both.
Throughout the match against Benfica, the Portuguese side would play long balls or put crosses into the box, and on countless occasions, he was on hand to cut them out just in the nick of time.
Timber has shown that he could handle the immense pressure that comes with being a United player too.
When Matthijs de Ligt picked up an injury on the eve of the Netherlands’ long-awaited return to major tournament football last summer, Timber was thrown in at the deep end, making his competitive international debut in their opening group game against Ukraine.
You wouldn’t have guessed it though. Four days before his 20th birthday, Timber looked confident, assured, and was every bit as good as Stefan de Vrij and Daley Blind, his defensive partners that night.
Looking at everything he’s done since breaking into the Ajax side around a year ago, there really is no reason to believe he’s not ready to take a step up, and Ten Hag will know that better than anyone.
It remains to be seen how much freedom and influence the United manager-to-be will get when it comes to transfers, but if he gets his way, expect Timber to be one of the first through the door.
There are a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle that is Manchester United. The Ajax youngster can fill three of them.
Given that, we’d wager that Ten Hag has already been on the phone to the club’s higher-ups and, like Pitbull, he’ll have been yelling Timber. Rightfully so.
More Manchester United
Comparing Man Utd and Liverpool’s net spend since Klopp arrived, 2015
11 quotes to explain Erik ten Hag’s philosophy: ‘A Cruyffian influence’
Can you name every South American to score for Man Utd in the Prem?
Rating the £328m Man Utd have spent on the defence since Ferguson