Erik ten Hag and Youri Tielemans’ brief touchline encounter on Sunday sent the rumor mill – and Manchester United supporters – into a frenzy.
The United manager was caught on camera quietly patting the Belgium international on the back just before he was introduced as a second-half substitute for Leicester during Sunday’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
There has already been much speculation about Tielemans’ long-term future: after a January transfer window move fell through, the highly-rated playmaker is expected to leave the King Power Stadium as a free agent when his current contract expires in the summer.
Arsenal and Manchester United have both been heavily connected with the sought-after midfielder in recent months. Ten Hag’s gesture has only fueled speculation that Tielemans is on his way to Old Trafford – and some of Tielemans’ previous comments may have already outlined his stance on such a move.
When asked about his future plans last summer, Tielemans said he was happy at Leicester and would need to be presented with a “great project” to convince him to leave.
“You need to keep calm,” the Leicester star told RTBF ahead of Belgium’s UEFA Nations League match against Poland in June. I’m happy where I am. My contract is still valid for a year. I’m not in a hurry. When you change clubs, it’s not just for the sake of change. You change because you have a fantastic project on the table.
“The most important thing for a player is to play. It will be up to me to make the correct decision about my future this summer, but for the time being, I’m relaxed and focused on the Red Devils.”
Intriguingly, Manchester United currently appears to be a strong fit in most ways for the criteria Tielemans sketched out cautiously last year. With Ten Hag at the helm, the club is finally moving in the right direction following a calamitous 2021/22 campaign. The type of initiative that is likely to fascinate Tielemans is playing an influential role in steering Manchester United, one of the world’s most successful clubs.
Ten Hag is poised to renew his quest for a No.8 after a blockbuster deal for Frenkie de Jong fell through last summer.
With an elite No.9 also on the Dutchman’s wish list, a Tielemans deal would be cost-effective if the midfielder does not sign a new contract with Leicester in the coming months – and one that would likely appeal to both Ten Hag and the Old Trafford leadership.