Donny van de Beek has not enjoyed much luck at Manchester United. But the Dutchman wasn’t signed simply to appease fans, as some have suggested.
Had things been different, United’s £40million signing (BBC) could have been hailed as a masterstroke. Instead, he is regarded as an expensive mistake by outsiders and a player desperately in need of a chance by many Red Devils fans.
When Van de Beek arrived, United’s overreliance on Bruno Fernandes was well documented. The Portuguese had almost single-handedly pulled the club into the Champions League and more quality was required in key areas.
If Fernandes was injured for any length of time, United would have struggled. Step forward Van de Beek, whose time at Ajax suggested he could do a job as Bruno’s short-term replacement.
Then there was the Paul Pogba problem. Last summer, as with now, the Frenchman’s future was unclear.
Van de Beek’s relatively cheap arrival meant United had another quality midfielder if the World Cup winner jumped ship.
As it is, Fernandes remained fit all season and Pogba – despite his contract situtation – remains at Old Trafford. As a consequence, Van de Beek managed just four Premier League starts and a raft of disappointing substitute appearances.
But, if fate had intervened, Van de Beek’s time at United could have been very different.
He is, in many ways, the victim of other people’s good luck. Fernandes plays almost every game for United – much to the frustration of those who feel he should get a rest now and again.
Pogba is back to his best with seven assists already this season. So Van de Beek has an almost impossible challenge to start regularly.
Still time to impress
If Solskjaer wants to keep Van de Beek, he needs to start playing him. A deeper role seems most likely for now. But coming off after 45 minutes in the Champions League, when United needed more stability, spoke volumes.
Longer term, coming in when Fernandes is rested is an option. However, it is unfair to expect the Dutchman to perform once every few weeks when so many of his teammates play week in, week out.
It is up to Van de Beek to stand out. The sad fact is that the good luck of others has been bad luck for him.