Donny van de Beek has played his way into contention for a first Premier League start for Manchester United this weekend.
Van de Beek, a £40million summer signing from Ajax, has had to be patient since joining United, restricted to starts in the Champions League, EFL Cup and cameo roles in the league.
But Van de Beek’s impressive midfield display in United’s 4-1 win over Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday has provoked a clamour for the Dutch international to start at Southampton on Sunday.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand urged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to give Van de Beek more game time, while another ex-Red, Owen Hargreaves, described the 23-year-old’s display as “close to perfect”.
Bruno Fernandes may be United’s main man, his two goals on Tuesday meaning he has been directly involved in 34 goals in 35 appearances – scoring 21 goals and providing 13 assists.
Van de Beek might not be able to match those astonishing numbers, but with his inherent attacking instinct, he moves the ball quicker from midfield to attack, speeding up United’s forward play.
There was certainly more urgency and fluency about United with Van de Beek and Fred in midfield, more so then when Nemanja Matic or Scott McTominay have been paired with the latter.
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“I was very impressed,” said Ferdinand of Van de Beek. “You spend £40m on a player and you want to see him make more than just cameos here and there.
“I think he’s the one player in this squad who’s happy playing one-touch, two-touch, keeping it simple, sacrificing parts of his game to help other people flourish.
“In any great team you need players like that and he’s one player who will make other players tick and make them play better.”
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Hargreaves added: “I thought Van de Beek was close to perfect. He’s so unselfish, he can just fit in and play the right balls everywhere.”
Solskjaer’s natural instinct has been to play two holding midfielders, but against the Turkish champions he paired Van de Beek alongside Fred, who was largely responsible for defensive duties, freeing up the former to move the ball forward.
Although Van de Beek was forced to play deeper than normal, he was given the freedom to link up with United’s front four, which made for a more fluid, attacking display from Solskjaer’s side.
Whether Solskjaer sticks with such an offensive-minded side against the Saints remains to be seen, but Van de Beek is desperate for his full Premier League debut and happy to play any role.
“It worked really well,” said Van de Beek, referring to his deeper role. “Some games I play No.10 and sometimes the coach needs me in the control position.
“That’s fine for me because before, when I played at Ajax, I was playing in those positions, so it’s okay.”
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