On Sunday night, De Jong turned out for – and scored the final goal – in Barca’s 6-0 Joan Gamper trophy thrashing of Pumas UNAM.
He came on as a substitute and returned to his usual midfield position after a slew of displays playing as a centre-back.
And one piece of play in particular had fans gawking, with De Jong showing he is levels above United’s current midfield players.
He received the ball from Jordi Alba and was immediately put under pressure from Barca legend and former teammate Dani Alves.
But he swivelled his body beautifully to send Alves, 39, back to Sevilla with a deft turn. He then continued driving through midfield, breezing past another opponent before playing a glorious defence-splitting pass that should have brought a goal for the hosts.
Earlier on, Fred and McTominay were well below par as Erik ten Hag’s United lost 2-1 at home to Brighton 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 at the point he recieves the ball, Mctominay loses the ball while dribbling with it forward and Bruno f*cks up the final ball…
This guy is literally better than out whole midfield [email protected] https://t.co/nkL5aeJjxl
— Tushar (@Icarus07_) August 7, 2022
Fred can only turn one way and use one foot whereas de Jong can dribble the pitch after receiving with his back to goal. Compare the compactness and intensity of that press to the one Brighton implemented today. It’s identical. Only difference is QUALITY pic.twitter.com/eOugXNRAz8
— EBL (@EBL2017) August 7, 2022
De Jong rounded off the scoring in the 84th minute, adding to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
United, meanwhile, finished their first outing of the new campaign with Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek in midfield.
“McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, ridiculous,” he said on Premier League productions.
“The quality in the middle of the pitch was really poor.
“I was happy he didn’t get sent off [for a high challenge] but I think he was slightly lucky. Again, he’s running with the ball, absolutely ridiculous. It could easily have been a red card. The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough but we’ve seen that for the last few years with these two players.
“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] is going to 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’s trying to run with the ball constantly and then gives it away. Pass it to your best players! It’s not that difficult. It’s criminal on a day like today.”