Wed. Nov 25th, 2020

Man Utd

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Man United have to change the way they are using Donny van de Beek

3 min read

As Manchester United were about to use their final sub in the soporific goalless draw with Chelsea, the cameras panned to Donny van de Beek, looking glum in the pouring north-west rain as he accepted his involvement would go no further than a few jogs down the touchline.

It looked like the Dutch midfielder’s mood could only have been darker had he been informed what his former teammates had been up to just before United kicked-off against Chelsea.

Van de Beek left Ajax this summer for a well-earned shot at a major European club, but while his playing time diminishes at his new club his old club were having all the fun on Saturday, securing a record-breaking 13-0 win away at VVV Venlo. They could have done with sending some of those goals to Old Trafford.

When Van de Beek signed for United in an initial £35million deal he revealed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had personally called him to sell him his vision for United. Presumably, it wasn’t this.

There’s often a bedding-in period for new signings, although usually less so when players come from similar leagues such as Holland or Germany, and Van de Beek can surely expect to start some Premier League or Champions League games this season.


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The use of the 23-year-old so far is peculiar however and while Solskjaer could call on a bench the strength of which he’s rarely had in his time at the club against Chelsea, his refusal to turn to a creative midfielder who has the gifts to unpick what was a deep and determined Blues defence made little sense.

Not much about Van de Beek’s early weeks at Old Trafford make a lot of sense, to be fair. He’s been fairly impressive in two Carabao Cup starts against Luton and Brighton and did score on his debut, off the bench, against Crystal Palace.

He came on with 23 minutes left that day, as he did in the lost cause against Tottenham three weeks ago. But at Brighton in the league and PSG in the Champions League he’s come in the dying stages, at Newcastle he got 14 minutes when he did have an influence, and yesterday he was an unused sub.

There’s no doubt Van de Beek adds quality to this United squad, but he needs to be given the chance to prove it and while Solskjaer is still backing him publicly the longer he remains the only senior central midfielder not to start a Premier League or Champions League game this season, the more intense the questions will get.

Van de Beek was United’s first signing of the summer and it was a sign that the club can be quick and efficient when it comes to getting business done. He looked a clever signing at a bargain price and given the competition in midfield was always going to have to fight for his place, but the goalless draw with Chelsea is exactly the kind of game he should be given the chance to influence.

Solskjaer has praised his versatility, but seems reluctant to play him in a deeper midfield position, even though keeping Fred and Scott McTominay on for 90 minutes against a Chelsea side lacking even a modicum of ambition seemed a waste. If Solskjaer won’t play Van de Beek in one of those roles then his options really are limited, given the importance of Bruno Fernandes to United.

Getting the balance in his midfield right is still an issue that will be taxing Solskjaer, especially as the current set-up leaves Paul Pogba and Van de Beek on the bench. Fred and McTominay give United a solid base but sometimes a little more invention is required and their use of the ball against a Chelsea side who were difficult to break down was poor.

Come the end of the season a goalless draw against Chelsea might not be seen as a poor result, but United never really looked like taking this game by the scruff of the neck. Trusting Van de Beek’s talents in a deeper midfield role would have been a greater sign of intent.

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