The criticism of Donny van de Beek’s first season at Manchester United reached a new level this week.
Van de Beek was handed a rare start against West Ham but struggled to get into the game at all.
He was replaced by Bruno Fernandes on 73 minutes and United’s play immediately improved.
The change felt inevitable and the BBC cameras were even primed and ready to catch van de Beek’s forlorn expression when he saw his number go up.
He had just 46 touches, failing to make a key pass or get a shot on target but that wasn’t completely van de Beek’s fault.
Nobody in a red shirt played well and it was clear that United are still not 100 per cent attuned to how to get the best out of van de Beek.
The scrutiny is ramping up, but if the Dutchman wants guidance on how to recover from an underwhelming maiden Old Trafford campaign, he should look no further than Fred.
Fred recently admitted he was aware he’d been written off as a ‘flop’ within months of his £47 million arrival in 2018.
The Brazilian was scratching around for form and plenty were lining up to question why United had spent all that money on him.
But Fred recovered from that early, tough patch. The way he did it was basically hard work, ignoring the noise and giving 100 per cent every time he got on the pitch.
His performances started to improve and now he’s established himself as a crucial player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who called him ‘unbelievable’ after the 5-0 win over RB Leipzig in October.
Van de Beek’s quality is not in doubt. Bryan Robson knows what it takes to run the show in United’s midfield and told the club website he’s been impressed by the Dutchman so far.
“Some players take a little bit longer than other players,” said Robson.
“The problem for Donny is trying to impress the manager and get straight into the team when Bruno Fernandes has been playing magnificently.“
“Then the re-emergence of Paul Pogba over the last couple of months, before his injury, has been really good. Paul was playing how we know he can play and so that made it very difficult to get Donny into the team.
But I’ve been impressed by some of his qualities. I can see he’s a worker; he’s just got to be a little bit patient.
When he gets his chance [like against West Ham], he has got to impress Ole.”
Perhaps it would suit van de Beek to play deeper, allowing him to slot into the same team as Fernandes and get more touches of the ball.
But Fred’s time at United should reassure him and provide inspiration that a player’s first Old Trafford season doesn’t define their whole Red Devils career.
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