United are getting the answers we did not want about Donny van de Beek
For 18 months, the biggest issue of confusion at Manchester United centred around Donny van de Beek’s weekly non-selection in the first team.
Each week fans would predict, ‘this is the week’ Van de Beek finally gets rotated in, only to be left disappointed. In one and a half seasons, the Dutchman made only four Premier League starts.
After spending £35 million on Van de Beek, it seemed odd to continue to leave him out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking was supposed to herald a fresh start, until replacement Ralf Rangnick decided to take the same stance, that the midfielder was not good enough to hold down a place.
So what exactly was wrong with Van de Beek? Was he badly treated? Could he make Solskjaer and Rangnick regret their decisions?
United sent the former Ajax star on loan to Everton on transfer deadline day to give him a fresh start, and supporters hoped to find out the answers.
Unfortunately we are getting the answers we did not want. Van de Beek may simply not be good enough, or at least, not at all suited to the Premier League.
Van de Beek struggling to convince
Van de Beek’s first game at Everton was a good one, a 3-0 win over Leeds. But as we have seen with Manchester United scoring nine goals in two games against Leeds this season and looking like world beaters, these are not games to accurately judge players.
Since then it has got tougher for Van de Beek, who lost his Netherlands place last September. Monday night was a particular low point.
Van de Beek was hooked after 59 minutes in a 5-0 defeat at Tottenham, after the fifth goal had gone in. The United loanee was knocked off the ball for the third goal as Spurs swept the Toffees aside.
From a technical perspective, Van de Beek looked after the ball well. He completed 35 of 36 passes, but in the Premier League, that is not enough.
He was too lightweight and one-paced, and in English football, this gets players found out. He was criticised by Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football, who said: “The lack of athleticism in that Everton team is frightening, Allan can’t run, van de Beek can’t run, none of the back four can run.”
Van de Beek’s decision to join Everton has also come under scrutiny. The Telegraph reported in January he rejected advances from Newcastle as he did not want to be involved in a relegation battle. Now he finds himself in one with 17th placed Everton, while the Toon are six points ahead in 14th.
He also turned down Crystal Palace on deadline day, who are 10th, and Van de Beek is a victim of his own decision making, and now has to deal with it. He is in a fast-sinking Everton side who really could go down.
Mentally this will be a real challenge for him. It is not where he wants to be, nor what he is used to. In the Netherlands he spent his time competing for titles.
Not what United were looking for
There is time for Van de Beek to turn his own personal situation around and help Everton climb up the table, but it won’t be easy, especially after Monday’s performance.
Ralf Rangnick wouldn’t have minded being proven wrong, if Van de Beek had gone to the Toffees and turned his fortunes around. United’s board would also rather the £35 million spent on him start to look like a savvy investment, instead of a waste of money.
Van de Beek’s only hope could be his former Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag following him to Old Trafford in the summer and giving him a fresh chance. But at the moment, he risks doing damage to his status which could make a fresh start more difficult.
If he returns to United with a relegation on his CV, low in confidence after a woeful spell at Everton, even Ten Hag will be reluctant to give him a chance.
United are getting more answers over Van de Beek. Whatever the theories over whether United should be playing him or not, this loan was a chance to prove them wrong or right. Unfortunately for the midfielder and for supporters, the situation is not looking too good for him right now.
Van de Beek had been a mystery man, a player whose reputation had grown in some quarters by his time on the sidelines. Now we are getting a closer look at the reality as he steps into the light, and it is not so exciting.