On Sunday evening, De Jong came out ahead of – and scored the last goal – in Barca’s 6-0 Joan Gamper trophy that Pumas thrashed UNAM.
He came in as a substitute and returned to his usual midfield position after a slew of showings as centre-back.
And one piece of play in particular made fans look to him, with De Jong showing that he stands taller than United’s current midfielders.
He got the ball from Jordi Alba and was immediately pressured by Barca legend and former team-mate Dani Alves.
But he turned his body beautifully to send Alves, 39, back to Sevilla with an agile twist. He then continued to drive through the midfielder, blowing past another opponent before playing a glorious defence-splitting pass that should have resulted in a goal for the hosts.
Previously, Fred and McTominay were way below par when Erik ten Hag’s United lost 2-1 to Brighton at home in their first game of the season.
And if they weren’t already, United fans are well aware of the stark contrast in quality:
Fred concedes a big chance the moment he receives the ball, Mctominay loses the ball while dribbling forward with it and Bruno f*cks the last ball…
— Tushar (@Icarus07_) August 7, 2022
Fred can only turn one way and use one foot, while De Jong can dribble the field after receiving with his back to goal. Compare the compactness and intensity of that press with the press that Brighton is implementing today. It’s identical. The only difference is QUALITY! pic.twitter.com/eOugXNRAz8
— EBL (@EBL2017) August 7, 2022
De Jong completed the score in the 84th minute with goals from Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
United, meanwhile, finished their first appearance of the new season with Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek in midfield.
“McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, ridiculous,” he said of Premier League productions.
“The quality in the middle of the field was really bad.
“I was glad he wasn’t sent away [for a high challenge] but i think he was a little lucky. Again, he runs with the ball, absolutely ridiculous. It could have easily been a red card. The quality in the middle of the field was not nearly good enough, but we have seen that with these two players in recent years.
“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] will have to go with just one of them, but even one of them is probably too many.
“Fred gives the ball away all the time and McTominay constantly tries to run with the ball and then gives it away. Pass it on to your best players! It’s not that hard. It’s criminal on a day like today.”