Donny van de Beek has played a grand total of 61 minutes for Manchester United in the Premier League this season, and was an unused sub in their dour 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Saturday.
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The Dutch national team star, 23, has been a bit-part player early in his Old Trafford career, and after United paid $47 million to Ajax to sign him this summer there are plenty of people scratching their heads and asking: why did they sign him?
Speaking ahead of United’s UEFA Champions League clash with RB Leipzig on Wednesday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained his treatment of Donny van de Beek early in the season.
“When players come into a new league, to a new team, it’s always going to be a time that he adapts. When he’s played he plays really well. It says a lot about our depth and quality in the squad, that we don’t have to use him every single game because we have other players as well,” Solskjaer said. “I also think it says everything about our ambitions, we want to challenge for trophies this season. I would be disappointed if some of my team-mates said I wasn’t important at United. I didn’t start many games.
“Donny is going to play a big, big part this year. At the moment I realise the topic is Donny van de Beek, it’s nice for some players or commentators to have a little go. I know you’re short for time on tele and have to put your point across quickly, but you have to know you don’t have to start the first three games to be a very important member of the squad. Donny is going to be very important for us, don’t worry about that.”
We now Donny van de Beek is a quality player, but is he a quality player at the wrong club at the wrong time? There were a few bizarre comments from his agency saying that he already isn’t best pleased about being left on the bench, and the fact he didn’t come on when United needed a creative spark against Chelsea at the weekend says a lot.
The balance in Manchester United’s midfield has looked much better when Solskjaer has two true holding players in there. Fred and Scott McTominay are not silky players, but they get the job done and allow Bruno Fernandes and United’s other star attackers to flourish.
That allows us to ask: why sign Donny van de Beek if you have him competing with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes for one position?
That is the $47 million question, because right now it seems like Manchester United signed the Dutch playmaker without really having a plan for how they would use him.
He scored against Crystal Palace on his debut, and has looked tidy enough when he’s come on. But how often will we see him? He’s been playing for the Dutch national team and scored against Italy in a recent game, so he’s fit and in-form and ready to play.
Manchester United just don’t seem to know where, and when, to play him.