They say patience is a virtue, but Donny van de Beek must be wondering how much longer it will be before he starts a Premier League game.
It is not as if Manchester United have been underwhelmed with their new summer signing. Already the Dutchman looks like a bargain at £35million and that is before he has even become a regular in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Yet again he came off the bench to have an excellent impact in United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle at the weekend. And while he may start against Paris Saint-Germain (unknown at the time of writing), Solskjaer needs to find a regular spot for him.
MEN Sport recently reported that sources close to Van de Beek have said he ‘will play wherever the coach needs him, so what roles would suit him best? By our reckoning, he could fit into three different positions and still leave his imprint on this United side:
United’s failure to land Jadon Sancho has been used as a stick to beat them since the closure of the transfer window, and many of the points made have been valid ones. The right-wing in particular looks an area of weakness in Solskjaer’s squad, even though United signed two 18-year-olds for the position in Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri.
But neither of the teenagers are likely to challenge for the first team yet (Diallo does not arrive from Atalanta until January) and others like Daniel James, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard are more dangerous in other positions. So United need options.
One of the key reasons behind the acquisition of Van de Beek was his versatility. Moving a ball-playing midfielder like the 23-year-old into a narrow right-wing position has become common in football recently, even Mata has proven at United that it can work.
He would be a solid option, especially if United want someone defensively responsible and who will keep the ball. Van de Beek could work equally well on the left as well.
United are blessed with many more options in central midfield than in other areas. But with some players like Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic struggling to match the heights they hit after last season’s restart, Van de Beek is surely an option.
He has played as a No.6 or No.8 with the Netherlands and Ajax in the past and, again, has the passing ability and energy to do it for United. In fact, perhaps his best role for United would be as a Pogba alternative alongside someone like Matic in a two-man midfield, with Bruno Fernandes behind.
Alternatively, United could use Van de Beek as the anchorman himself, allowing Pogba and Fernandes the freedom ahead of him.
Sign up to our free MUFC email newsletter
Get the latest breaking Manchester United transfer news and analysis every day direct to your inbox with our free MUFC newsletter
Many have suggested that United should actually move their kingpin Fernandes to accommodate Van de Beek. Certainly, the Portuguese playmaker prefers to play as the principal No.10 but he could also do a job out wide, like Van de Beek. The two could interchange positions, giving United multiple No.10s in the style of Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
Fernandes has spoken effusively about Van de Beek and believes there are big things to come from him. He said: “I hope Donny can do a lot of things for us and I’m sure he will do. Donny is one of those guys from the beautiful Ajax football.”
Van de Beek has the passing range, flair and eye for goal that an advanced position demands.
The conundrum for Solskjaer so far has led to the Norwegian leaving his new man on the bench, but circumstances (and the intense fixture schedule) will soon dictate that the Dutchman must play regularly. Van de Beek will be vital.