When Manchester United lured Donny van de Beek away from Ajax for just £ 40million, many fans watched with jealous eyes how the Red Devils had quietly struck a bargain for the 23-year-old.
Young, experienced at the highest level, extremely talented and versatile, Van de Beek was the perfect addition to a squad properly rebuilt by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. When he joined the club, expectations were high; perhaps even more so given that United didn’t land on anyone else that summer except for Edinson Cavani, who was a last-minute free transfer.
Five months later, however, the Dutchman has only played 918 minutes of football and has been reduced to cameo appearances, managing just two Premier League starts.
This long, ongoing litter has sparked many reactionary reactions online to Van de Beek’s lack of playing time. Solskjaer addressed the unrest, admitting that he “was not happy” about the lack of opportunities, which is of course understandable given he was captain at Ajax.
Perhaps we would have seen more Dutchmen if Paul Pogba hadn’t experienced a revival of form, or if Scott McTominay and Fred hadn’t proven to be a reliable pair of hands in big games. United’s lack of a defensive midfielder prevents them from making the most of their creative midfielders, truth be told, but their improved performances also prove that the team is responding well to Solskjaer’s changes and the increased competition for them. places does. employment.
And then there is Bruno Fernandes. People naturally equate Van de Beek with the role Fernandes has in the camp, which makes it virtually impossible for him to peek or even impress when he does, given the impact Fernandes has.
Solskjaer and United are aware of the caliber of player that exists at Van de Beek and while it is important to lay him down slowly as they have, there is actually room for him in the starting XI of the second. half of the season – alongside Fernandes and Pogba.
United’s 3-2 FA Cup win over Liverpool didn’t do Van de Beek justice, frankly. Starring in the number ten role, viewers were quick to see him as “unnecessary” for his lack of impact, which worsened when Fernandes finally replaced him and pocketed a winning free kick.
It’s not that simple, however. Looking at it closely, it is easy to tell that the pair are made up of two completely different players, although they occupy similar positions. While Fernandes does his best on the ball for United, demanding possession and driving forward attacks with key passes and blistering shots from all angles, Van de Beek is much more subtle in his impact.
The Dutchman is the key to launching and ending attacks. Short, quick passes to the right man help break through tight spaces, while his movement off the ball in forward areas allows teammates to take the shot, make the last pass, or even send it back to him where he can score the shot. goal. . At a glance, it seems like he’s less punchy and doesn’t offer enough to dislodge Fernandes or Pogba, when in reality he could compliment them perfectly.
A start against Southampton in November was an impressive outing, and his recent FA Cup performance against Watford was an example of how his tempo can pull the strings. Deploying Van de Beek’s spatial creation and finishes in tight spaces alongside Pogba’s long passage and Fernandes authority in the final third is a seriously exciting avenue that remains to be explored.
While Fernandes is sometimes a touch too keen to shoot from a distance, or Pogba finds himself searching for the Hollywood Pass to no avail, having Van de Beek occupy a large position – but being allowed to roam freely and use space – gives United another dimension attack and eliminates the need to rely on fast counters.
Of course, that sacrifices pace and breadth on the counter, but United don’t have a right winger to fill the role anyway. As the season progresses, matches come fast and hard.
Solskjaer must take advantage of the busy end of the campaign to explore this new avenue and give Van de Beek time to shine alongside his creative colleagues, in order to achieve the best results.