There are certain questions you can pretty much predict will be asked at any of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s press conferences at the moment.
Why haven’t Manchester United bought any more players? Why haven’t Manchester United sold any more players? Do you think Manchester United need to buy more players? More players?
With just over a week left of the summer transfer window things are less than ideal at Old Trafford and Solskjaer knows his squad still needs to improve if they are to achieve their targets for the season ahead.
United still need a specialist right winger, they need a world-class centre-back, and arguably they need a new full-back and perhaps even another striker.
However, mystery remains over sole summer arrival Donny van de Beek, and questions about where he fits into the side are now becoming just as regular as transfer probes at press conferences.
“Good players can play well together,” Solskjaer reiterated at his latest media encounter on Friday morning. The United manager went on to cite ‘competition for places, lots of combinations and different systems’ before assuring we would see a midfield of Van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba together at some point.
It seems unlikely United will indulge in such an attacking set-up against a side as well organised as Brighton this weekend, especially considering the opening day defeat to Crystal Palace, but it is certainly a prospect which will excite supporters.
In his two appearances for the club Van de Beek has arguably been United’s best player, but the midweek win against Luton again highlighted the key role Nemanja Matic plays in anchoring the midfield and allowing such free attacking movement to work.
The trip to Brighton on Saturday will likely see Solskjaer play Matic, Fred or Scott McTominay in a specialist defensive midfield role and one of Van de Beek, Fernandes or Pogba missing out from the start.
Performances over the past week have certainly seen Van de Beek shoot up the hypothetical midfield power rankings amongst fans, and there will be justifiable disappointment should he miss out on a starting berth at the Amex.
The fact there is even a debate over United’s midfield selection signifies a change from the predictability of the line-up post lockdown, and even though there more pressing transfer issues remain, Van de Beek’s arrival has already been justified by the dilemma he has given Solskjaer.
United’s packed fixture schedule will make such selection issues more understandable as fatigue begins to play a part throughout the campaign, but for now Van de Beek has thrown down the gauntlet. The exciting news for fans is that the onus is now on the likes of Pogba to respond. It looks like he’s been given the ‘new challenge’ he was asking for last year.