Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

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Donny Van de Beek: Is there a way back for him at Manchester United?

5 min read

His face said it all. Just 73 minutes on the clock and his time was up. Donny Van de Beek could not hide his disappointment. Another ineffectual cameo role from Manchester United‘s £40million summer signing.

Doubts over whether midfielder Donny Van de Beek would fit in at United were cast prior to his arrival and five months down the line the same uncertainty exists.

The Dutchman’s United career has yet to take off. He’s been left waiting in the wings with his pathway to leaving a lasting impression on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side unclear.

Donny van de Beek's face said it all when he was substituted after 73 minutes on Tuesday

Donny van de Beek’s face said it all when he was substituted after 73 minutes on Tuesday

The midfielder, who joined for £40million on September 2 from Ajax, is yet to make an impact

The midfielder, who joined for £40million on September 2 from Ajax, is yet to make an impact

His pathway to leaving a lasting impression on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's (L) side is unclear

His pathway to leaving a lasting impression on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s (L) side is unclear

The 23-year-old has just played 300 minutes in the Premier League this campaign as he’s started just two top-flight games since United splashed the cash on the Ajax star. 

Former United defender Gary Neville suggested Van de Beek was brought in because his old club expected Paul Pogba to depart but instead the World Cup winner has had a resurgence and become a key player for Solskjaer.

Not only has Pogba’s revival proven to be an obstacle for Van de Beek but so have the brilliant displays by Scott McTominay in the middle of the park.

The Scotland international has really improved his game this season – perhaps spurred on by Van de Beek’s presence – and scored the winner in the FA Cup fifth-round clash against West Ham after replacing Nemanja Matic when Van de Beek was hauled off for star man Bruno Fernandes.

Manager Solskjaer was full of praise for McTominay after the 24-year-old netted his seventh goal of the season – more than Pogba, Van de Beek, Fred and Matic combined –  and his recent influential performances have made him undroppable.

Tuesday night’s cup tie was a chance for Van de Beek to make his case for more game time but he looks a shadow of the player who dazzled for Ajax in recent years.

Paul Pogba's had a resurgence at United which hasn't helped Van de Beek's chances of playing

Paul Pogba’s had a resurgence at United which hasn’t helped Van de Beek’s chances of playing

DONNY VAN DE BEEK’S MAN UNITED CAREER 

Appearances: 25

Starts: 11

Goals: 1

Assists:  1

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Van de Beek is a versatile midfielder, able to operate as a No 6, No 8 and No 10 and score and create goals but right now his confidence is shot and when he takes to the pitch there is no spark to his game.

Former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas sympathised with the Holland international, insisting that it is hard to find form when playing a bit-part role.

‘That look on his face there I’ve just seen sums up unfortunately the way he’s playing at the moment with a bit of fear and a lack of rhythm,’ Jenas said during BBC’s coverage of the FA Cup clash when Van de Beek was substituted.

‘I honestly don’t think it’s his fault. He’s out there being professional, doing everything he possibly can.

‘But when you don’t have that run of games in your system or belief that you can go out there and afford to make mistakes you don’t show the full version of who you are, and that creative streak which got him to the football club in the first place.’ 

While Scotland international Scott McTominay has been performing brilliantly in midfield

While Scotland international Scott McTominay has been performing brilliantly in midfield 

Van de Beek was one of Ajax’s main protagonists after starring in the youth ranks and played virtually every game – notching 41 goals and supplying 34 assists in 175 appearances in the process.

There’s no question who United’s leading light is and how Van de Beek could have done with having at least a small portion of the impact Fernandes has had since making the switch to the Premier League giants.

Solskjaer does not have Van de Beek, who joined on a five-year deal on September 2, in his current plans but understands adapting to new surroundings takes time and has assured him he has a future at Old Trafford.

Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is United's star man so Van de Beek is out of favour

Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is United’s star man so Van de Beek is out of favour

‘There are so many examples of players needing a little bit of time, quality players, we have many examples ourselves and there are other clubs with examples and sometimes it takes time,’ he said earlier this season.

‘You don’t expect people who care for him to be quiet at times, especially when they want the best for them. I’ve spoken to him and made him aware of how much we rate him.’

Van de Beek struggled to see the ball against the Hammers and former United striker Mark Hughes has claimed it’s down to his United team-mates not having faith in him.  

‘You just sense… it looks like they don’t trust him with the ball yet,’ he told talkSPORT.

‘When the likes of Fred and (Nemanja) Matic look up and they see Rashford, they see (Anthony) Martial, they see (Mason) Greenwood, who is still a young player but has great talent, it’s like they defer to them, their first thought is to pass to them.’

United have been here before as Fred took time to settle but they are now reaping the rewards

United have been here before as Fred took time to settle but they are now reaping the rewards

But how does Van de Beek develop that trust when he is way down the pecking order? 

It appears as though the Dutchman is going to have be patient and bide his time with his best opportunity for a run in the team likely to come if United fall victim to injuries in midfield areas as the hectic schedule of 2020-21 takes its toll.

United have been here before. Fred, who joined for £52m from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer of 2018, needed time to settle in Manchester but the waiting game has now borne fruit.

While Pogba, who is regularly linked with a move away from the club, could still leave. The Frenchman enters the final year of his contract in July and will hold talks over his future at the end of this campaign.

Van de Beek has the ability to turn things around and it’s too early for him to exit stage left.

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