Manchester United are set to sign their first player of the summer transfer window with a £40million capture of Ajax star Donny van de Beek nearing completion.
The Old Trafford club are hopeful of wrapping up a deal for the midfielder in the coming days having offered him a five-year contract.
But where will the Dutch international fit in at United? Here, Sportsmail examines the options available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he attempts to build a side capable of challenging for the Premier League title.
Manchester United are set complete the £40million capture of Ajax star Donny van de Beek
The Netherlands midfielder looks a perfect fit in United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first XI
Where would Van de Beek fit in at Manchester United?
Simply put, the 23-year-old plays in a position that for many would not have been a priority at the start of the transfer window.
But that does not mean his signing does not come with a plethora of perks that could be used to United’s advantage in Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba formed an excellent understanding in United’s midfield after the Premier League restart in June.
The versatile Van de Beek – described as a classic box-to-box midfielder – is almost certainly likely to enter that midfield trio now as a player who can can operate in a central or attacking role.
The 23-year-old could operate in a midfield two with Paul Pogba with Bruno Fernandes as no.10
Nemanja Matic could therefore be the biggest victim of the Dutchman’s arrival, with Van de Beek more than capable of playing the creative outlet in a pivot, with Pogba functioning in his usual box-to-box role and with Fernandes playing as the No 10.
While also possessing the ability to play anywhere across the middle, the Netherlands international could be the link between the defence and the forward line as well as the man to trouble the best of defences by making late runs into the box to score goals himself.
He managed to net on 10 occasions across all competitions last season, including eight in the Eredivisie and one apiece in the Champions League and Europa League, and could therefore improve United’s productivity in attacking areas.
The Dutchman scored 10 goals and recorded 11 assists for the Eredivisie side last season
So why have United decided to sign him?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is well aware that a fantastic first XI will not be sufficient in challenging Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League this season.
The Norwegian will expect younger stars like Mason Greenwood to drop off at some point this season and its one of the many reasons United have publicly pursued the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.
Whether Sancho will end up at Old Trafford before the October 5 deadline has yet to be officially decided but regardless of that, Van de Beek adds some much-needed squad depth at United.
Serbian Nemanja Matic could be the biggest victim of Van de Beek’s arrival at Old Trafford
Age is not on Matic’s side with the Serbian having turned 32 at the beginning of August, while persistent ankle injuries kept Pogba from featuring heavily last season, particularly in the first half of the campaign.
Fred and academy graduate Scott McTominay have shown in flashes that they are capable of making up part of Solskjaer’s squad but lack the consistency currently to become regulars.
With a heavy fixture list in all competitions in a reduced period of time this season, Solskjaer will need to keep legs fresh in midfield and with Champions League experience under his belt, Van de Beek appears to be a midfielder they can ill-afford to turn down.
The 23-year-old old could also ease the physical demand on United star Paul Pogba
Could he ease the burden on Pogba and Fernandes?
Most definitely, and the statistics from his final season in his native Netherlands before it was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic appear to back it up.
Possessing incredible versatility, he managed 11 assists for Ajax last season, and with United often too reliant on Fernandes for creativity, Van de Beek looks to be the perfect player to help serve the club’s deadly forward trio.
Of those assists, five came in last season’s Eredivisie, in which the 23-year-old created six goal-scoring chances for his team-mates in 23 games.
Van de Beek has even received praise from former Arsenal and Netherlands great Dennis Bergkamp in the past as a seal of approval.
United will also have another creative outlet besides star January signing Bruno Fernandes
When Frank de Boer became Ajax boss in 2010, Bergkamp, promoted to his assistant, almost immediately told him about Van de Beek: ‘Dennis started talking enthusiastically about a talent in his youth team.
‘It was a boy who reminded Dennis of himself at that age. That was the signal for me to keep an eye on that guy. That was Donny.’
However, given that he will likely be given a central role he will be required to work back the other way, but it appears he excels in that area too.
According to Whoscored.com, Van de Beek made an average of two tackles per game in the Eredivisie.
Van de Beek has already showcased his talent to English opposition this season at Chelsea
That figure is the same as Matic in the Premier League last season and should ally fears that United could be easily exposed at the back ahead of the upcoming season.
Van de Beek therefore looks extremely competent and can help out the United defence by sitting back and putting the hard graft in when necessary.
A complete midfielder who has already showcased his talent against English opposition against Chelsea and Tottenham in the last two Champions League campaigns, Van de Beek looks destined to be a hit in the Premier League.