Carrick says van de Beek is capable of playing as a false nine

Donny van de Beek was a conundrum for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throughout his Manchester United reign.

In the first game since Solskjaer’s sacking, van de Beek was in the team ahead of Bruno Fernandes.

Michael Carrick fielded him in a disciplined role in a compact 4-3-3 formation against Villarreal on Tuesday night.

At his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to face Chelsea, Carrick also said that van de Beek can play as a false nine, a role Solskjaer never fielded him in.

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“Donny’s one of those players where because he’s so flexible, he can play different positions,” said Carrick. “He’s done the same for Ajax before he came here, so he’s used to that, and he’s done that for Holland as well.

“Variety can be a real strength. We’ve got ideas where we think Donny is most suited but, as I said, actually he’s so flexible and so adaptable that the two or three positions in and around midfield.

“He even played, you could argue, a false nine for Ajax at times in the Champions League where they ended up getting beat by Tottenham.

“So, yeah, of course we’ve got ideas for it but being so flexible is a real strength and a credit to what he can be for the team.”

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Solskjaer never seemed sure where to fit van de Beek into his team, especially given Fernandes was virtually undroppable in the number ten role.

Van de Beek sometimes played in a deeper role, and also off the left at times, but never as a false nine.

With Cristiano Ronaldo at United now, it feels very unlikely van de Beek will play as a false nine at Old Trafford.

But Ralf Rangnick is set to come in and he is an original thinker about football and every player will have a clean slate under the new boss so nothing should be ruled out completely.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.