Donny van de Beek is all set to become Manchester United’s first summer signing. According to the latest reports, the player has completed his medical in the Netherlands ahead of his move to Old Trafford. The deal would be completed and officially announced in the coming days.
With that being said, it’s worth considering how the Dutch midfielder would fit in the United lineup.
A central midfield by trade who can also play as a no. six, eight or 10. Van de Beek possesses immense versatility. The Dutch international can be best described as a classic box-to-box midfielder.
Van de Beek came up through Ajax’s academy and made his first-team debut in 2015. He became a first-team regular from the next season onwards. The 23-year-old’s best season came a couple of years ago in the 2018-19 season when he scored 17 and provided another 13 goals in 57 outings. However, his stock rose during Ajax’s fairytale run in the Champions League last year.
Where would he fit in United’s midfield
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mostly employed a 4-2-3-1 system last season. As Paul Pogba missed most part of the last season due to injury, Solskjaer deployed Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay as a double pivot in his system. And the no. 10 was occupied by Bruno Fernandes since his arrival in January.
Solskjaer is likely to stick to the same system. Also, Fernandes is guaranteed his place as a 10 after so Van de Beek is expected to either play as one of the double pivots or he can fill in Fernandes’ shoes when the Portuguese is in need of rest.
Van de Beek mostly played as an eight or a 10 in Ajax’s 4-2-3-1 last season (cut short by the pandemic) providing 10 goals and 11 assists in 37 appearances. Stats are one thing and they could tell so much but not all. Van de Beek’s positional sense, movement off the ball and game reading capability makes him special.
On the other hand, establishing a right amount of balance would be a challenge for Solskjaer as having Fernandes, Pogba and Van de Beek would certainly be deemed as attacking and thus, there would be lack of defensive mentality which is required to control the games, especially when the team is leading. This would be an issue if Solskjaer opts to go with a 3-4-1-2 system. Also, we’ve seen that United have struggled against teams who play a low block. So, having more creative and attacking-minded players on the field could provide answers.
Another thing to consider here is that Van de Beek might have to wait or fight for a place in the starting XI. As said earlier, he could start as one of the double pivots, but the Dutchman is not a genuine defensive midfielder and Solskjaer may deploy him on the right side in place of Mason Greenwood, but again that is not his preferred position.
United’s lack of depth was quite clear in the final weeks of the last season. Addition of a versatile player like Van de Beek would certainly improve United. Solskjaer’s over-reliance on the same key players would reduce and perhaps he can employ different systems.
United need better players to reduce the ‘quality gap’ from their bitter rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. And Van de Beek fits the bill perfectly. At 23, he is relatively young and certainly, his best years lie ahead of him. This is a distinctly smart and sensible transfer from United which would perfectly suit Solskjaer’s youth-centric policy.
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