While Manchester United remain in a turbulent state over the course of the international break, Donny van de Beek may just be psyching himself up for a potential run of games. The Dutchman has barely featured for United this season and has also fallen out of favour with his national team.
However fortunes may have changed for Van de Beek with Paul Pogba being ruled out for the rest of the year with a thigh injury. Pressure is building on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to find a solution to United’s poor form, so could Van de Beek finally get his chance?
It’s been a hugely underwhelming experience at United for Van de Beek, who was signed for a hefty £35.7m fee back in August of 2020 from Ajax, but a lot of that can’t be put down to the player himself. Van de Beek arrived at a team with excellent creative midfielders already present in the form of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, while Solskjaer has opted to go for tried and tested midfielders in the deeper role meaning the Dutchman has barely been afforded a look in.
On the surface it’s strange that the club has spent so much money on a player and used him so infrequently but dig a little deeper and the reasoning is a lot clearer. United seemed to have signed Van de Beek without any kind of overall plan or position to play him in; lots of people assumed he would replace Pogba, but the Frenchmen has remained at the club.
This lack of planning and integration strategy for a big signing is just a reflection of the state of the club presently, with recent weeks highlighting the turmoil the club currently faces and the discontent towards the infamous Glazer owners. Its’ also true that some of this discontent has been directed at Norwegian manager Solskjaer, who has obviously had the biggest part in Van de Beek’s limited opportunities.
However, the takeaway is that United are incompetent from the top down at the current moment in time, which has hugely affected Van de Beek’s United career. For most of the Dutchman’s spell on the side-lines he’s been cool and calm, diligently accepting his role as an occasional substitute, but there have been instances where we’ve seen the frustration boil over.
A scornful face on the bench and throwing a bib are the height of these incidents, however they are all indicative of a player who is unhappy with their current situation.
Van de Beek actually appeared on Rio Ferdinand’s YouTube channel earlier this year, detailing his experiences so far at the club. As expected, he opened up about his frustration but remained polite and determined throughout, signifying his desire to eventually be a regular for United. Appearances like this have only endeared Van de Beek more to the United faithful, who regularly chant for him to make an appearance.
It’s interesting to note that when the Dutchman does get a chance, he usually has a solid overall game. An example of this was the 10-minute cameo he made against Atalanta in the Champions League, with an intricate bit of play that eventually ended up in a vital Cristiano Ronaldo goal.
Moments like this are an example of the talent that United and Solskjaer have at their fingertips if they are willing to risk shaking the team up a bit. Unfortunately, the reality is that Van de Beek has made just five appearances so far this season, with only one full 90 against West Ham in the Carabao Cup.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that rumours of his agent desperately trying to secure a loan move away from Old Trafford in the summer were rife just after the transfer window closed. Reports are now suggesting that Van de Beek will leave United in January unless something drastic changes- however this drastic change could in fact now be a real possibility.
It’s blatantly clear Solskjaer’s tenure as manager is hanging by a thread, and another defeat could spark a change in manager. If this happens Van de Beek stands a good chance of being able to prove himself and possibly reignite his United career, although a manager change may not even be necessary with Pogba’s injury.
The chance for Van de Beek to get a run of games has now never been higher, as Solskjaer will be forced to roll the dice and make changes to turn around results. Van de Beek must take this chance in the run up to Christmas and the January transfer window as this will very likely be his last chance at United and determine the future trajectory of his career.
If he can perform well consistently over the next few months then there is no reason why we shouldn’t expect Van de Beek to have a long-term future at United, finally showcasing his full potential. On the other hand, a bad run of results and lacklustre cameos/performance will likely be the final nail in the coffin for the Dutchman’s United adventure.
Regardless of the outcome over the next few months or year, Van de Beek will retain his enormous potential and talent. At only 24, the ceiling is so high for this creative midfielder and it’s inevitable he will eventually shine- one way or another.
Written by Sam Wilson