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