Donny van de Beek: His Time Has To Be Now

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 injuryPressure 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

A crucial international break in Manchester United’s season

The past few weeks have been some of the hardest for Manchester United and its fans in recent memory. After defeat to Leicester City, a complete embarrassment of a 5-0 defeat against rivals Liverpool, and a poor display and loss in the Manchester derby, the club feels as unstable at present as it ever has since Sir Alex Fergusons retirement. 

However, players now have the international break, two weeks away from club football, this piece will examine just why this period may be the most crucial yet in United’s season. 

Most crucially, international breaks give players the opportunity to find form they may have been missing at club level, of course this only concerns players who have been called up to play for their national team. 

A player this may well apply to is United captain and England centre back Harry Maguire; since seemingly being rushed back from injury for the Leicester game, as reported by the Mail Online, Maguire has been a shadow of the player fans know he can be, at fault for goals against Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as looking generally off the pace. 

For England, however, Maguire often plays some of his best football, being a crucial player is England’s deep run in the Euros in the summer of 2021, United fans will be hoping the captain can find his form on international duty and bring it back to Old Trafford to help a seemingly shaky defence.

Other players that will hopefully find form while away include Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes, and Fred. All of whom are regular starters at United and have been criticised heavily by pundits and fans for their performances in the past few weeks. 

The international break also gives the manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the opportunity to re-group and decide the best way to move forward with this Manchester United squad. It gives him the opportunity to plan which formations, tactics and starting line-ups will give Manchester United the best chance at bouncing back after the international break, something they desperately need to do to save their season. 

However, it must be noted, as reported by the Mail Online, that the manager was spotted flying back to Norway for a holiday with his family, this does not fill fans with hope that United players who were not called up to international duty such as Donny van de Beek and Mason Greenwood are receiving the correct training and tactical assurances after such woeful performances. 

Of course, while this international break is crucial, it also brings its own set of issues, including players picking up injuries while on international duty. Unfortunately for United fans, this has already happened as it was reported by ESPN that within the first couple of days of training for France, Paul Pogba sustained an injury that could keep the midfielder out for two months. 

Pogba is a player United fans would want to improve on international duty and return to the club at his best, instead, due to the international break, United will be without one of their most talented players, and highest paid players, for a critical point of the season. 

While most football English football fans are not huge supporters of regular international breaks, there can be no doubt that for Manchester United, a break came at the right time. Fans will be hoping that fitness and form can be improved for both players away with their country, and players who are training in Manchester, ready to attack the crucial set of games ahead of them. 

However, they will be wary that if any more players end up on the side-lines due to injury, those games become a much tougher task than they already are. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

January Transfer Window: More important than ever?

After a poor start to the 2021/22 season, Manchester United already risk falling too far behind to rekindle any hope of salvaging some kind of success this year. United are quite frankly stuck in a woeful run of form, exacerbated by the toothless performance against Leicester City last weekend

Confidence in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is purportedly retained by board members at the least, but the tide has now mostly shifted in terms of supporters. United seriously risk imploding further if results don’t improve or a long-term solution isn’t found soon, the pressing need for some changes more evident than ever. 

One thing that is abundantly clear is that United need to take advantage of the upcoming January transfer window. Traditionally it’s a rarity for United to buy in this window, however this year with the way the season is panning out there is a growing body of evidence to suggest United really need to both buy and sell this upcoming January. 

Reports of discontent in regard to Donny van de Beek and the lack of game time afforded to Jesse Lingard means it would be detrimental to both club and player to not look for potential buyers, United could really do with the funds so that they can afford to reinvest over January.

It’s still highly unlikely United will spend a huge sum of money in January, however a player in the region of £30-50 million is attainable but most likely on the provision that someone from the club is sold for a decent fee. When clubs lay out the transfer budget for the season most teams don’t factor in the January Window, changes to the squad mid-season can be disruptive in nature. 

However, when injury strikes, or a season doesn’t pan out the way it was intended to, this normally barren and stable period can turn into a frenzy, especially if the need for a new player is glaringly obvious. In United’s case it is.

Let’s take a look at some potential January incomings and outgoings, while also assessing the likelihood of a transfer materialising:

Potential Incomings:

Franck Kessié

Naturally we’ll start with one of the most talked about and rumoured transfers over the last few months, Franck Kessié is a central defensive midfielder currently playing his trade at Italian giants AC Milan. The Ivorian is only 24 years of age and possesses bags of ability for a player at such an early stage in their career. 

United experienced first-hand how much of a controlling presence the midfielder can have, Kessié played both legs in last season’s Europa League clash between Milan and United. This is exactly the type of player that could inject some much-needed energy and presence back into United’s midfield. The highly rated prospect is out of contract with Milan next year, and with rumours swirling around that Kessié demands higher wages that Milan can afford to pay, it is likely he may be on the move in January or at the very least summer 2022. 

Additionally, Kessié has actually previously expressed desire to play for United one day, make of that what you will…

Likelihood: 3/5

Marcelo Brozovic

Moving onto the other team in Milan, Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic is also out of contract next summer and potentially seeking a move away from the San Siro. The Croatian midfielder is also more of a defensive option and offers a wealth of experience, sitting at 28 years of age with over 60 caps for Croatia means that if United were to opt for his signing it would add an influential presence alongside existing midfielders. 

Brozovic is an excellent playmaker from deep, occupying the space just in front of the two centre-backs. With a brilliant passing range he is often able to bypass other team’s press with calming authority, something United could really use. Additionally, off the ball the Croatian is competent, content to read the game and sit back while stifling spaces and cutting off passing lanes. 

Signing Brozovic would only be a positive for United, adding him in January could genuinely change the club’s fortunes for the season dramatically, however there are a number of other teams sniffing around for his signature- including Liverpool and Barcelona.

Likelihood: 3/5

Aurélien Tchouaméni

Aurélien Tchouaméni is another player that has recently been linked with United frequently, it would seem with good reason too. Tchouaméni is just 21 years of age, making him a very raw talent. Playing in central midfield, primarily as a defensive midfielder, the youngster has massively impressed to draw the attention of top clubs. 

Tchouaméni is a great ball winning player and also possesses the asset of being able to progress the ball, whether that be from driving forward with pace or picking the right forward pass. The Frenchman has already got international caps and recently played alongside Paul Pogba, the two working effectively together in midfield. 

If United want to look for a player with a high ceiling of potential that they can subsequently mould into what they see fit then this is a good option, with the benefit of existing connections to Pogba. 

Likelihood: 3/5

Kieran Trippier

United’s interest in Kieran Trippier is well documented at this point and the England full-back has reportedly been open to a move since the summer. Trippier became only the fourth Englishmen to win La Liga last year with Atletico Madrid, a triumphant reward for what was an unorthodox move for an English player. 

Despite being 31, the right-back is able to motor up and down the flank and is a bit of a set piece specialist, United may be keen to find someone of Tripper’s ilk in order to provide pinpoint crosses for Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Additionally, the acquisition of Trippier would relieve pressure on Aaron Wan Bissaka but the prospect of Atletico letting a first team player leave this January is fairly low, so this deal may be difficult to do.

Likelihood: 2/5

Potential Outgoings:

Donny van de Beek

It’s no secret that Donny van de Beek has grown increasingly frustrated with his role at United, or lack of one for that matter. Van de Beek has only featured three times for United so far this season, playing the full 90 only once in the Carabao Cup defeat against

West Ham

This lack of game time combined with murmurings of unfulfilled promises from Solskjaer mean that it’s almost certain the Dutchman will seek to move to pastures new this January. If a move does materialise then United can expect to pocket at least £25 million for the talented midfielder, who was originally signed from Ajax for £35.7 million.

Likelihood: 4/5

Jesse Lingard

The rollercoaster ride for Jesse Lingard has been nothing short of incredible, from being scapegoated as not good enough at United, suffering with personal issues and then blossoming at West Ham United on a loan move last season, Lingard has experienced it all in the last 18 months. 

The 28-year-old actually became one of the best attacking players in the league after switching to West Ham on loan last season, enjoying a scintillating run of form that many thought would lead to a permanent switch to London.

 However, when the summer window closed this year, Lingard remained, despite being touted as worth around £35 million pounds amid interest from West Ham and others. Lingard has scored for United already this season and enjoyed some positive moments but if the England international is to play regularly he will have to seek football elsewhere. 

If United do manage to sell Lingard in the January window, then they will gain a significant sum that should be used to reinvest in the midfield straight away.

Likelihood: 3/5

Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial has struggled over the least year or so to really establish himself as a reliable Manchester United forward. Switching between a striker role and occupying the left flank, the Frenchman hasn’t seemed his once cool and deadly self. With the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho it is going to be increasingly difficult for Martial to get any sort of game time at United, meaning a move will likely be his best option. 

Despite this, it would be a huge surprise if Solskjaer greenlights a departure in January for the forward as he won’t want to lose too many players if Lingard and Van de Beek end up leaving.

Likelihood: 2/5

Overall, I expect United to be active in the upcoming January transfer window, with at least one player leaving the club on either a permanent basis or a loan deal. United need to bring in a midfielder but they will need the funds in order to do so, which is why the sale of one player on a permanent basis will be a key factor in this whole process. 

The lack of quality in the midfield currently is evident and Solskjaer doesn’t have the correct profile of player to remedy the issue at the moment it would seem, so bringing in one of the targets listed above would be a massive boost for the overall balance in general. 

If United are successful in acquiring a defensive midfield target, then there’s no reason why the second half of the season can’t be fruitful with some silverware, but as always, only time will tell.

Written by Sam Wilson 

Donny van de Beek should leave Manchester United after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ridiculous comments, says Ian Wright

Former Arsenal forward Ian Wright has urged Donny van de Beek to leave Manchester United suggesting that it is never going to work for the Dutchman at the club. It could be bitterness coming from the former Arsenal player, but there is some truth to this.

Van de Beek was signed from Ajax in a move worth £35 million in the summer of 2020 but after his first season at the club and his lack of appearances in the second season, it seems that his time at the club could be over. This would be a shame as the player is capable of playing some good football but there are more things at work here, not just that the player has a lack of minutes on the pitch.

Many seem to assume that Van de Beek is rivalling the likes of Scot McTominay, Nemanja Matic and Fred for a place in the midfield, but as a player with the speciality of attacking, he is actually rivalling the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard – which is why he’s not playing many minutes at the moment.

Of course, this could all change if the midfielder was given regular minutes and he impressed the manager and coaches at the club, which could give him a chance to stake his claim in the team but realistically, when he has played he has never set the world alight, but that said, he has not been give the chance to either. When a player plays few minutes, they need to be able to offer everything without the chance of mistakes.

During the summer, Van de Beek’s representatives were approached by Everton, which was something that never happened as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned down any chance of it happening, which suggested the player had a part to play this season – but has not been given many chances so far. Toffees director Marcel Brands will probably make another move for the player in January and the same could be said for Newcastle United, who will have financial might once again.

Wright spoke to Optus Sport about Van de Beek where he spoke about the player from his days at Ajax to now, suggesting that he does not fit the way that United play football. It kind of has some truth to it though. United bought a great player at a competitive rate but it seems clear that he was not the player that Solskjaer wanted, therefore he has been closed out, which seems unfair – it if is true. Wright’s comments were reported by The Mirror, with him saying:

“The way that Ajax play with their possession football, the way that he’s grown up in that Ajax academy knowing how to make moves off of a team that are able to continually hold the ball, is totally different to how Manchester United play.

“It’s baffling to me that he went to Manchester United. It’s not like they’re going to change the way they play for Donny van de Beek to play. The signing was wrong.

“At this stage, I’ve not seen him play more than three games on the spin for Manchester United, it’s gone wrong. He has got to get out of there because it’s not going to work for him at Manchester United.

“He is not going to get the opportunity to play, and he is somebody that should be playing because he is a fantastic player.”

Wright’s comments seem to come from the recent match which saw an annoyed Van de Beek after he was not brought on the pitch, but Fred was. The Dutchman showed his discontent, which is natural, especially when he will have been watching Fred from the sidelines, a player that has not exactly got what United need in his locker. After that match, Solskjaer made a comment suggesting that he did not need ‘sulkers’ in his squad, saying:

“If we’re going to be successful together, we know that we need positive energy. We can’t have sulkers, but Donny has never affected his team-mates negatively.

“As soon as I see players affecting the team negatively that’s a different scenario and I’ll probably be a little bit firmer.”

Wright then concluded what he was saying, commenting on the ‘ridiculous interview’ that Solskjaer had with the media, saying:

“We’re talking about somebody who’s not even had a chance and he’s obviously been very professional about what he’s doing, and he’s [Solskjaer’s] saying if he sees anything different, what, he’s going to blow him out? Ridiculous interview.”

It seems that it is only a matter of time before Manchester United and Donny van de Beek part ways. With Everton having interest in the player, it could be positive for United, who will need to bring in some money, also reduce the wage bill before signing a new player. That said, Newcastle United’s transfer of ownership could change the situation as the club will be seeking to sign better players in a bid to remain in the Premier League and challenge for a UEFA Champions League place in the not too distant future.

Something will need to give as these rumours will continue to do more harm than good. Solskjaer has stated that he has plans for the Dutchman but these pundits just don’t seem to let things rest, picking an international break to cause more doom and gloom, especially after United failed to beat Everton in the last match before the break, drawing 1-1 in a match that Everton seemed to show themselves as the better team.

Written by John Walker

Six Manchester United players who could be facing the axe as early as January

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could choose to axe up to six (maybe more) players from his squad this season with the January transfer window vastly approaching. Solskjaer has 28 experienced players in his squad this season, not to mention the talented youth players earning their plaudits from the academy. This means that there are a number of players who could be seen as surplus to requirements.

During the summer transfer windows, it was expected that United would get rid of a lot of the deadwood at the club but the post-coronavirus transfer market was not very positive for United, who needed buyers for the players they wanted to sell. It would have allowed United to strengthen on key areas ahead of the new season. Perhaps the much-needed changes could be made in January, or beyond?

United initially started the season in fine form with two wins and one draw in the first three Premier League matches before the first international break of the season, beating Leeds United 5-1 and Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 – drawing 1-1 with Southampton. It was a positive start to the season, which should have only got better for United – but there was a problem lying in wait.

After the first international break, United beat Newcastle United 4-1 in the league, were beaten 2-1 by Young Boys in the Champions League, beat West Ham United 2-1 in the league before a 1-0 defeat against the Hammers in the Carabao Cup, then losing 1-0 to Aston Villa in the league, beating Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League and final, drawing 1-1 to Everton in the league before the second international break.

Here are six players with limited futures at Manchester United…

Diogo Dalot, 22 – right-back

The Portuguese right-back has made just five appearances for the club this season, playing a total of 288 minutes of football, which suggests his future could be up in the air. Granted, he was only given the minutes he has in rotation, more importantly because Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off in the Champions League against Young Boys, therefore he was suspended for the win over Villarreal – the suspension now lasts two matches.

This will give Dalot some minutes on the pitch this season, providing an appeal for the two-match suspension is not won by United, meaning he will likely play in the first group stage match against Atalanta on the 20 October. When he has played this season, the Portuguese right-back has looked terrible – although that may change in the future if he is given more time on the pitch, but that seems doubtful.

It is suggested that Jose Mourinho would be interested in signing the player for the second time in his career, this time for AS Roma, but it would all depend on whether the Portuguese manager had the money for a potential deal, considering the player has more than two and a half years left on his contract. Based on the fact that Solskjaer wanted to sign Kieran Trippier in the summer, it would suggest Dalot is not wanted.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 2.5/5

Phil Jones, 29 – central defender

He did not play for the entire 2020/21 season and last played a match for the United first team in January 2020. This latest in a long line of knee injuries seems to have cost him dearly. He has played twice for the U23’s so far this season, getting 180 minutes of football under his belt. He was on the bench against West Ham in the Carabao Cup, which so far is the only appearances he has made at senior level, despite not playing.

It was expected that he would be involved in the first team, at least in the Premier League after not being named in the Champions League squad. But other than the West Ham match in the Carabao Cup, Jones has not featured for United. That could be a worrying sign because of his injury or it could be just to protect him, s he actually recovers from the knee injury.

It is hard to see Jones get ahead of Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, which is seemingly the pecking order at the club this season. There is also Teden Mengi, who could also be ahead of Jones, possibly even Bailly. I think for him to have a career, leaving United is the best option both for the player and the Old Trafford club. Getting back to his best, which has not really been shown will be hard.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 3.5/5

Eric Bally, 27 – central defender

The Ivory Coast international started the season late after his participation in the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. He has only featured in one match, playing 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup. Bailly has been on the bench for United in a further five matches, but so far has not been used as a substitute. His injury record is also questionable, like Jones’ record at the club.

Bailly has the likes of Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Jones and Mengi to contest with in the central defensive positions and it seems likely that both Varane and Maguire will be the main partnership, with Varane stepping in as the third-choice player, leaving Bailly, Jones and Mengi to contest for the fourth-choice player in this position. It seems unlikely that Bailly will play a lot of football – unless there are further injuries.

The rotation option seems to be the best option for him and he could perhaps contest Lindelof’s place in the team replacing him, which would involve him playing to the best of his abilities, not jumping into any rash tackles and maintaining his fitness level and not suffering any injuries – which seems unlikely in itself. It could be that the player will opt to leave, despite signing a new contract less than six months ago.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 3/5

Jesse Lingard, 28 – attacking midfielder/winger

It was expected that his loan spell with West Ham last season would have been the precursor to him leaving the club this season, but the player decided to fight for his place, which still is not guaranteed at the club. Lingard has played more football than others this season, also achieving more but even that is not a guarantee that he will be chosen by Solskjaer to be a regular starting player in the team.

Lingard has six appearances for the club this season, playing just 136 minutes of football, scoring two goals and getting one assist. One of his goal was the winner in the league against the Hammers, with the assist coming against Villarreal in the Champions League – with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the goal to get United their first points in the competition this season. It was good to see him achieve that to be fair.

It would seem unlikely that Lingard and will push the likes of Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes out of their places this season but I am sure he will have a good go at doing so. Lingard’s contract will expire at the end of the season, so unless a new contract is signed, his future at the club seems over. United could sell him in January or lose him on a free in the summer.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 4/5

Juan Mata, 33 – attacking midfielder

He is the fifth oldest player at he club this season, with two of those ahead of him being Lee Grant, 38 and Tom Heaton, 35 with both not likely to play much football this season. The oldest player is Cristiano Ronaldo, 36 with Edinson Cavani, 34 just ahead of him. Mata has made one appearance for United this season, playing 62 minutes in the Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham.

He has been on the bench seven times this season, but was not utilised for the last two Premier League matches, the 1-0 defeat to Villa and the 1-1 draw with Everton. When the likes of Rashford and Amad Diallo are back to full fitness and able to feature for United, there is a chance that Mata could not find much involvement on the pitch this season. It was not a great performance, although that might improve as the season goes on.

Of course, with his contract expiring in the summer, it is possible that Mata could retire from the game or even head into coaching with United, which is something that could be done whilst his current contract is active. He has been a positive player for United in his time at the club but it would seem that his best days are behind him. He has a good footballing mind, which is a shame to lose him, but it’s better not to plod on like this.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 3.5/5

Donny van de Beek, 24 – central midfielder/attacking midfielder

The Dutchman only arrived at United last season and had a tough first season at the club with not a lot of playing time and only contributing one goal and two assists for the club. This season, it seems tougher for him as despite making three appearances, he has only played 141 minutes of football, which is not enough for a player of his calibre. That said, he’s not competing with Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay or Fred for a place.

United have a lack of defensive minded midfielders at the club with just Matic the experienced one and McTominay playing as big a role in that position as he can. Perhaps a change in formation will give other players a chance but it is the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and to a point, Lingard that he’s competing with for a place in the team. That is why it is tough for him to get a place in the squad, despite what some fans say.

It is suggested that Van de Beek is seeking to leave the club in January, which was an avenue that he tried in the summer with his agent speaking to Everton and the move being denied by Solskjaer. The Norwegian manager says he has a place in the team, but in the early stages of the season, I can see why the player is frustrated but giving up without a fight is not really a good thing to do.

Likelihood of player leaving in January: 4/5

Solskjaer has a talented squad at United this season, a squad that at this time is underperforming with some supporters on social media calling for him to be sacked, which seems to be the case with fans like that – which has happened for each manager post-Sir Alex Ferguson; David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. These so-called supporters think they have the answers, with many suggesting that Mourinho was the one.

To see this time and time again shows that modern-day football supporters have no patience. They seem to assume that success can be provided for a price, which is never the case. With any manager, there are problem period and period of success – that is part and parcel in football. In a 20 team league, there can only be one winner but the expectation of these ‘United fans’ seems to suggest that United should win all the time.

The manager can only do part of the work. You can see this when these social media fans credit a win to individual brilliance but blame a draw or a defeat on the manager. It just does not make much sense. There will always be players who will moan about certain things but instead of moaning, fighting for a place and proving your worth is the best thing to do. Not every player can play a big part during the course of the season.

Let’s see what January, then the summer transfer brings for United. In terms of players at the club, there is a little about of work to get the players in for the problem positions and that should be achievable by the club and the manager. More importantly, United are still backing their manager, United are two points off the top spot in the Premier League and one point off the top of their group in the Champions League. Don’t panic!

Written by John Walker

Why is Donny van de Beek not playing for Manchester United?

Manchester United signed Donny van de Beek from Ajax in the summer of 2020 for an initial fee of £35.7 million, plus add-ons in a deal which would see the Dutchman stay at United until the summer of 2025, although an additional year can be added to the contract at any time. Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested in the then 23-year-old but the coronavirus pandemic gave United a great opportunity to sign the player.

Van de Beek played 175 times for the Ajax first team, scoring 41 goals and 34 assists for the club, also playing 79 times at U21 and U19 level, scoring 25 goals and 21 assists. The majority of the matches he played for Ajax’s first team were either at central midfield or attacking midfield, however, he did also play defensive midfield and left midfield, which covered very few of his appearances. The now 24-year-old has made a total of 39 appearances for United, scoring one goal and two assists.

The Dutchman has perhaps not been given the opportunities that many might have thought he would get at United, with factions of the supposed fan base using his lack of playing time to form an agenda against United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Many of these so-called supporters seem to moan that the lies of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred are playing ahead of the Dutchman – which has been the case. However, there is a stringent point to argue against this.

Donny van de Beek is not competing against the likes of Matic, McTominay and Fred for a place in the starting XI – he is completing against Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and even Jesse Lingard, who has come into contention this season after a purple patch on loan with West Ham United last season.

In his debut season at United, Van de Beek made 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal and two assists, playing a total of 1,456 minutes of football. So far this season, the 24-year-old has made three appearances for the club, not scoring or assisting a single goal, playing 141 minutes of football, which is considered a crime by some.

During his time at United, he has continues playing familiar positions with most wither at central midfield or attacking midfield, seldom playing at defensive midfield, left midfield and even as a left-winger. This shows that he is against the likes of Fernandes, Pogba and Lingard, amongst others for a place in the attacking areas of the pitch. It is plausible that he was purchased to rotate with Fernandes, which did not happen last season because of the void between the Premier League and the Eredivisie.

Van de Beek was shown in a moment of frustration on Wednesday evening the United beat Villarreal at Old Trafford in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, which was their first points in the competition this season after losing the first match 2-1 to Young Boys. Solskjaer used four of the five permitted substitutes opting to bring Fred and Lingard in the 89th minute of the match, both of whom participated in the play with resulted in Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winning goal of the match.

It was a gamble and it paid off but the agenda-driven supporters seem more upset that it paid off and United won and that Van de Beek was not used in the match. There always seems to be an agenda when it comes to United. Under Jose Mourinho, it was suggested that he was bullying Luke Shaw. Louis van Gaal was said to dislike Anthony Martial, something which seemingly (according to the agenda-driven so-called fans) continued under Mourinho and now Solskjaer. There always seems to be an excuse for some and it is becoming tiresome.

During the summer, Van de Beek’s representative, Guido Albers, confirmed that a loan move for the player, seemingly to Everton, was blocked. He spoke to talkSPORT exclusively, saying:

“Donny is happy with the fact the club has so much trust in him. But last season was really painful because he didn’t play much. He was ready for this. It’s about choices and timing, you have to accept. He signed a six year contract, but he wants to play.

“In the last few weeks he showed he is ready for the new season and he showed what the club likes to see. So we will see in the next few months whether the club will use him or not. Hopefully they will use him, if not we have to find other solutions. But I don’t think it is necessary.

“In the next months, it will be clearer that Donny can be a really good Man United player and please the fans who are supporting him all the time. He will succeed.”

Then when Ronado returned to the Theatre of Dreams, Albers suggested that it was bad news for his client. Speaking to Ziggo Sport, which was reported by The Athletic, he said:

“Cristiano [Ronaldo] arrived on Friday which we knew was bad news for us. [Paul] Pogba plays on the left, and with Cristiano’s arrival it means another extra player in midfield with Pogba moving away from the left.

“We had conversations with [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer and the board. We took the initiative to find a club and our search ended up at Everton. We opened talks with Marcel Brands and Farhad Moshiri.

“On Monday night (prior to deadline day) we received a call from Solskjaer and the club who told us that a transfer was out of the question and that he had to report himself to training the next morning.”

Solskjaer has made another move to quell the negative approach to Van de Beek’s lack of playing time, likening the Dutchman to himself, who was more regularly coming off the bench than starting matches, hence his nickname of ‘super sub’. Pouring cold water on things like this does not tend to solve them though as agendas tend to grow with such approaches and this one will continue to make mountains out of mole hills. Speaking in his press conference on Friday and reported by the official Manchester United website, Solskjaer said:

“I manage a squad of international footballers. Donny [van de Beek] was ready to come on, as all the players should be.

“I must have the record appearances as a sub. I’ve not been happy a few times. Alex [Telles] was coming off as a left-back and Fred did that job well.

“I understand his [Van de Beek’s] frustration. That’s got to be built into determination. That’s not just Donny but all the players. We need to have positive energy. Donny has never affected his team-mates negatively, I want that out there.”

Rational thought seems to be the abject failure of some in these times. There is always a reaction based on every scenario when Manchester United is up for discussion or indeed, anything else. There is a massive blame culture for this club – when United win, it is because of individual brilliance but then they lose, it is down to the manager. This thought span is not a good one at all. It’s is immature.

It is like supporters just want to be spoilt children all the time, demanding success time and time again because they can do it with pixels on a console. I am sure Van de Beek will get ample opportunity at United and I am also sure that the moaning will continue – no matter who the manager of the club is.

WWritten by John Walker

Opinion: Manchester United’s Midfield Dilemma

The 2021/22 Premier League season has started and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make with regards to who he picks as his first-choice midfield. Since his arrival at the club, Solskjaer has tried to stick to partnerships remaining loyal to his primary midfielders. Due to Bruno Fernandes’ remarkable impact, his spot in the team has always been guaranteed thus leaving Solskjaer only two spots to figure out. In Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1, he’s often used Scott McTominay and Fred as his midfield pivot to ensure stability at the back.

This can be viewed as quite defensive, but it does provide that cover for the back four especially when he sees the partnership of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire as unreliable. With the addition of Raphael Varane, this may change the dynamic at United as Solskjaer will feel that his new centre half partnership is assured and thus he can adapt to a more offensive approach rather than two more defensive minded players. Therefore, Solskjaer has a big decision to make on whether to play more freely but leaving the defence more vulnerable or sticking to a more stable but offensively hindered duo. The four midfield partnerships he could choose are:

Scott McTominay and Fred

Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba

Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic

Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay/Fred

Firstly, McTominay and Fred. This is the pivot we’ve seen the most of as a pairing and thus know what to expect. They bring high work rate always willing to run for the badge and won’t give in when it gets tough. Defensively, they are solid and can cover the back four well seen especially in games against Manchester City where United had to defend for much of the game due to City’s expert ball retention ability but held them out before swiftly hitting them on the counter-attack. McTominay’s height and aggression brings a real ariel presence and can help to win the midfield battle due to his tough tackling and determination to win the ball.

Fred carries a phenomenal engine throughout and never stops pressing and hassling the opposition. However, what this duo lack is technical ability, especially offensively. As a duo they are two separate players doing one mans job; neither player is a specialist defensive midfielder, but Solskjaer has often felt to get the job done you need both. Furthermore, a major weakness of their game is ball progression. A key role in the defensive midfield position is the transition of the ball; they must be able to pick the ball up off the centre half’s and then move it forward with speed.

McTominay and Fred struggle to do this due to their weak first touch, passing and progressive dribbling. Thus, when paired together, the ball is often held around the midfield for far too long taking multiple touches to find a simple pass. This completely slows United’s attacking flow as by the time the ball reaches the final third the opposition’s defence is well organised. Furthermore, because of their weak passing, it can limit how well the ball is progressed often resulting in the forwards dropping deeper and deeper to receive the ball which destroys all attacking shape and make it easier for the oppositions defence.

Therefore, as a duo they bring stability, but due to their weakness on the ball can give possession away which makes it easier for the opposition to dictate the games.

The next partnership is Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba. This partnership was most used post lockdown last year and was highly effective at the time. Its biggest strength is balance, Unlike McTominay and Fred there is balance between a natural defensive midfielder in Matic and then a more creative player in Pogba. This means despite not having two players to cover, the defence is stable as due to Matic’s elite positioning, awareness and ability to intercept he can shield the back four on his own. This then leaves Pogba more license to get forward and with his passing range and strong ball progression abilities, transitioning the ball becomes far easier and more effective.

Matic picks the ball up off the defenders, quickly passing it to Pogba who in turn, can find a 40-yard pass if necessary or make a defence splitting pass through the midfield into the final third for the attackers. This creates a smooth flow and speed to United’s game which is much harder for the opposition to defend. However, one major weakness is energy. Unlike McTominay and Fred in which you’re guaranteed tenacity and energy, with Pogba and Matic this isn’t the case. With Matic’s lack of speed he makes up for it with defensive positioning, but if the opposition team attempt to swamp the midfield it can leave Matic slightly vulnerable.

In addition, Pogba isn’t renowned for his defensive abilities and can be susceptible to not tracking back which would expose Matic even more. Furthermore, as a player Pogba can be clumsy when defending, and has a knack for giving penalties away. This as a trait for a player who is expected to track back and provide cover in the box is a weakness. Therefore, in high energy games this duo can be slightly vulnerable and become a liability but their high quality on the ball means often even against imposing midfields they can retain the ball well keeping a real control on the game and thus not being put into these issues.

Thirdly, there’s the partnership of Matic and Donny van de Beek. This is a relatively untested duo which has emerged in pre-season due to the lack of internationals fit after the Euros. This duo is highly intelligent and would always be one step ahead of the oppositional team. With Van de Beek’s awareness he can play himself out of trouble and prevent United from losing the ball. He like Matic has a good passing range on him, with a real ability to play cute one-twos with teammates making space for others. This will help United’s transition of the ball because both midfielders can pass well and are very comfortable with the ball at feet and can transition it smoothly.

Defensively, although not particularly tall, Van de Beek has good tenacity and can put a tackle in to turnover possession for his side. Furthermore, with Matic next to him it provides the necessary freedom to let him roam forward. Also, Van de Beek is a more energetic player than Pogba and so won’t let himself get ran out of the game. However, he’s not got such a brilliant passing range so can’t create a chance out of nothing like Pogba. Finally, the midfield with Pogba and Fred or McTominay. On paper if you mix Pogba’s attacking output and combine it with Fred’s or McTominay’s defensive work it would create a strong midfield but in reality, it’s the opposite.

Individually, Fred and Mctominay don’t have a strong enough footballing brain especially defensively to properly shield the back four. They can’t read the game like Matic and so United would miss that player who can put in a crucial interception to save a goal scoring opportunity. Furthermore, as Pogba isn’t the strongest defensively, a natural defensive midfielder is necessary and neither Fred nor McTominay provide this. However, as a midfield, due to Mctominay or Fred’s athleticism and stamina, the midfield wouldn’t get outworked and there would be enough speed in there which can be lacking with Matic.

Overall, I feel that despite issues with each pivot, he should use them all. Although previously he’s liked to have one partnership he sticks to, I feel different players will be more effective against different opponents. Against Leeds United due to the impeccable fitness standards Marcelo Bielsa inflicts on his men, Solskjaer used a more energetic duo like McTominay and Fred. But, in the future, against more defensive teams, Solskjaer should look to utilise players like Donny van de Beek and his intricate and clever play style to break down deep blocks.

However, if Solskjaer is to stick to one midfield I think he should, when possible, pick Matic and then either Pogba or Van de Beek as his partner. Last season Pogba played multiple games off the left due to Solskjaer insistence on using Mctominay and Fred and so with Rashford’s injury he may look to move Pogba back to the left and use Van de Beek and Matic as the midfield pivot to maximise creativity.

In Conclusion, I hope that although McTominay and Fred have their qualities, they are used more sparingly, and he goes with a more offensive approach this season as United with the signings of Varane and Jadon Sancho have the quality to dictate games, dominating oppositions and ultimately bring trophies back to Old Trafford.

Written by Ethan Bents

The future of Donny van de Beek at Manchester United

One of the most prevalently discussed issues at Manchester United this season has been the lack of playing time new signing Donny van de Beek has received thus far. Donny van de Beek was signed in the summer 2020 transfer window from Ajax for a fee of £35 million, and it would be unfair on him to say that he has been underwhelming when he has not been given enough minutes to showcase his undisputed talent. As of April 2nd, van de Beek has been given a total of 961 minutes across all competitions, which some might say is too low for a player of his calibre.

To sum up his profile, he is an intelligent advanced midfielder, possessing a unique set of skills around the balls, such as flair touches and dummies in order to deceive opponents and take them out of the game. Currently, United do not have a place in their system that suits how van de Beek plays, as prolific attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes occupies the position van de Beek is most suited to playing. It would be hard to dislodge a player in a continuous stretch of brilliant form such as Fernandes, and also would be difficult to be fully integrated into a starting 11 without a clearly defined place.

Furthermore, the step up from the Eredivisie to the Premier League is one that is difficult for various players to fully grasp. To illustrate, former Ajax teammate Hakim Ziyech has also struggled for Chelsea in certain parts of the season, however, his form is improving under new manager Thomas Tuchel as he has received more frequent game time. Donny van de Beek needs a sufficient amount of time to adapt to a new country and a new league, which is why patience is required as it is a normal practice. During the 2020 summer transfer window, it was no secret that United wanted to sign Aston Villa attacking midfielder Jack Grealish.

United essentially were looking for a player that could fill in when Bruno Fernandes needed a rest, and also to play alongside him when needed. Jack Grealish was the ideal player for that role, who registered 90 key passes in the 2019/20 Premier League season. However, Aston Villa’s survival in the league meant that United would be priced out of a move for Grealish, thus meaning that they had to look for alternatives, namely Donny van de Beek. Due to the demand for van de Beek, United had to act quickly in order to sign him, as there was interest mainly from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

From the outside looking in, it seems as though United did not do enough research on van de Beek, as he may not be the type of player Solskjaer was hoping to get. It is thought with the rumours of French superstar Paul Pogba leaving United in 2021, that Donny van de Beek would receive more playing time. Based on the evidence, this theory should be debunked as Paul Pogba has been injured for spells during this campaign yet van de Beek has not been given a chance to replace him. Surprisingly, Pogba has played on the left and right wings this season, which are unconventional positions for him in order to accommodate duo Scott McTominay and Fred.

When Pogba has been injured, if van de Beek was to fill in, he would play either on the wings or at the base of midfield, which is another position Pogba has played this season. However, this has not been the case as van de Beek has played six games at the attacking midfield position, five games at the central midfield position, and once at defensive midfield, which was a substitution during United’s disappointing 2-1 home defeat against Sheffield United. The evidence does not suggest that van de Beek will be a replacement if Pogba was to depart Old Trafford.

Though only time can tell what will happen with the talented Dutchman at the end of this season, and during the next season.

Written by Ashkan Shomeil

Donny van de Beek has impressed Luke Shaw already, despite friendly defeat to Aston Villa

Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw has talked about new summer signing, Donny van de Beek’s impressive impact on the squad this summer after signing for the club two weeks ago and not linking up with his new teammates until last week, after the first international break of the season. The Dutchman became Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing of the summer in a £40 million deal from Ajax with United paying around £35 million up front, the rest in add-ons.

The 23-year-old made his unofficial debut for the club in a friendly match against Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday, a match in which the home side won 1-0. There were positives from the match and one of those was Van de Beek’s ability on and off the ball and his determination to get involved in the game and create something for his teammates. There were a few first team players missing from the match too, so the result should not really be frowned upon. Speaking to MUTV, Shaw said:

“Really good. It’s all about minutes and he got that. He hasn’t been with us long, obviously he was another who was on international [duty], so he’s done really well considering he’s only trained with us for two days.

“The most important thing is him getting to know the players, knowing how each other play. We’ve got a whole week now to slot him in, but so far so good, he’s a really nice guy and I’m sure he’ll fit in great.”

Van de Beek played the whole 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat which was the last chance for United’s squad to be ready for the new season which starts on Saturday against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was impressed with his new midfielder’s performance against Villa, in a team that was without the likes of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, who were the clubs best performers since the Premier League restart after the coronavirus pandemic last season. Solskjaer said:

“Donny was maybe the biggest plus outfield. He’s such a finder of space and creates time for himself with his timing and movement. I was very happy with his performance.”

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand had nothing but praise for the 23-year-old following his arrival from Ajax this summer, in a move that Edwin van der Sar will have played a big role in, being the CEO of the Dutch club. Ferdinand, who won six Premier League titles, two League Cups, four FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup with United during his glittering career at the club previously stated:

“He brings goals, assists, he runs into the box, a good work ethic and an unbelievable brain. An Ajax guy, he knows how to play good football.”

This will be a big season for United. At this moment in time, the summer transfer window is not the best for United with fewer than three weeks before the window closes and United still in the need for a right-winger, a left-back, a central defender and a striker, although the latter could wait until January considering Odion Ighalo will remain at the club until the end January 2021. Van de Beek looks like a quality addition to the team and we will all look forward to seeing what he can do at United this season.

Written by John Walker

Donny van de Beek brought to attack; taking number 34 was an emotional tribute

Manchester United confirmed the signing of Donny van de Beek from Ajax on Wednesday in a £35.7 million transfer. The player took the number 34 shirt at the Old Trafford club, which was previously given to Dean Henderson before his loan spells at Sheffield United. The 23-year-old can play in a variety of midfield positions but Dutch journalist Marcel van der Kraan believes that he has been brought to the club in order to attack. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels the player has a great ability getting into the box.

All eyes will be on the new United midfielder as he plays for his country in the UEFA Nations League against Poland (Friday) and Italy (Monday), before heading to Manchester ahead of his first training session with his new teammates. The Premier League starts on the 12 September but United’s first match will be against Crystal Palace on Saturday 19 September, a 17:30 BST kick off, which could see the Dutchman make his debut. Van der Kraan, speaking on Sky Sports’ Transfer Talk show stated:

“I think Donny [van de Beek] has learnt in the Ajax academy to play everywhere on the pitch.

“Of course, he concentrates on the midfield but he is very versatile. They learn at Ajax from a very young age that they have to play left-back, right wing etc, and in that midfield he can almost play everywhere.

“His strength, though, and I think [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer has put this to him, is getting in the box. He’s got massive stamina, he’s got an eye for goal and he’s got loads of assists.

“I think in that Champions League year where Ajax got to the semi-finals he proved his point that, ‘I can play at the top level, I can do this at Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona’, and he has his chance now at Old Trafford.”

Before making the move to United, Van de Beek was linked to Real Madrid who were supposedly signing the player this summer. However, the coronavirus pandemic seems to have changed everything. The 23-year-old signed a five-year contract at United, with the option of a sixth year to be added and he seems both pleased and relieved that the transfer has been completed. The Manchester Evening News reported United’s latest Dutchman as saying:

“You do not want to know how relieved I am that I have my transfer. As you know I was around with Real Madrid and the clubs also had an agreement, but for some reason it did not go through.

“Players who were going to leave, stayed and Madrid dropped out. Of course, you are annoyed at the beginning and you wonder if such a possibility will arise again.

“Manchester United is a dream, of course a great club, in the strongest league in the world. I didn’t have to think for a second when I got this chance.”

Arsenal were also, allegedly, offered Van de Beek ahead of United but they chose not to make the deal due to the player not offering value for money, according to a report in The Sun, which seems pathetic and so Arsenal. Van de Beek will wear the number 34 shirt at United, a number that will be emotional for him. Former Ajax teammate, Abdelhak Nouri wore the number at the Dutch club at the time he suffered permanent brain damage against Werder Bremen in a pre-season friendly in 2017. The new United midfielder contacted Nouri’s father, Mohammed, told Dutch source NOS:

“Donny called me. He asked if I was okay with him playing with number 34. And I said he should. I can only be proud of that. It’s a nice gesture, very special for us.

“Abdelhak responded happily. When he hears Donny’s name or voice, his eyes widen and he immediately looks up. He hears everything. You’re on the loudspeaker. He knows exactly what you’re saying and what it’s about. We don’t have to tell him that.

“He was also emotional, you could see that immediately. You can see it in his facial expression. But so are we. We are happy and emotional at the same time. Everything comes up. Donny and Abdelhak are close friends. It is real friendship.”

Van de Beek is the latest in a long line of Ajax players to pick the number 34 shirt for the same reason. Nouri’s brother, Abderrahim stated:

“Of course a lot of players have chosen to play with number 34, but with Donny that brings an extra charge. There is more to it. They have a special bond.”

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW