Remarkably, Donny van de Beek did not touch the ball a single time after replacing Edinson Cavani against Brighton.

But there was an even more revealing statistic. Van de Beek came on in the 81st minute, and Manchester United took the lead in the 83rd.

The Dutchman made a crucial impact with his movement to help United open Brighton up and score the decisive second goal.

Van de Beek’s darting run into space in the centre of the box opened Brighton up, distracting their defence, allowing Paul Pogba to find space out wide.

He was then in position to score, before Mason Greenwood popped up out of nowhere to head the ball into the net.

Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Van de Beek’s movement threw Brighton off, and if Greenwood hadn’t scored, he probably would have tapped the ball in himself.

The Dutchman’s contribution was the mark of an intelligent player, who won’t get the official credit he deserves, just like the way his dummy against Leicester for Mason Greenwood’s goal was not registered as an assist.

He did what United needed

Edinson Cavani had a poor game, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the right call taking him off to bring Van de Beek on.

This proved itself with United scoring the winning goal within two minutes of the substitution.

 

Greenwood and Van de Beek both attacked the central area vacated by Cavani, and Brighton did not know who to pick up.

From there, United just had to see the game out, and did so, holding on for the 2-1 win.

If you just look at statistics, and not the game, then you might wonder what Van de Beek contributed with his zero touches.

Watching his actual contribution, it was obvious, with the former Ajax man playing a key part in United’s goal, and it may not have happened without him.

Coming on for the final 10 minutes and effecting a victory should be the confidence booster the Dutchman needs.

It’s still not glaringly obvious where Van de Beek fits into United’s first XI when everybody is fit, but it was good to see him being called on, and making an impact.

His link up with Greenwood is one to watch, with him playing a key role in the teenager’s last two goals. It could be coincidence, or more likely, the result of two intelligent players benefitting from being around one another.

Reaction

Here is a look at how United supporters reacted to Van de Beek’s contribution…

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