When the signing of Donny Van De Beek was announced, the first question that popped on every Man United fan’s lips was: where will he fit in a midfield comprising of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
For all we know, the Dutchman has primarily operated on the opposite side of a midfield three during his time with Ajax. In fact, in his 175 appearances for the Dutch side, Donny got himself 41 goals, which is not a bad return for a midfielder.
With his performances in that position and the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prefers to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, one might be tempted to assume that the only position available for Van De Beek is at the tip of United’s midfield.
At least theoretically, that’s where his attacking attributes can best be utilized.
Unfortunately, at Man United, that position is currently occupied by the ever-impressive Bruno Fernandes. And if there’s anything we know for a fact, it’s that the Portugal man won’t be relinquishing that position anytime soon.
This then leaves Ole with two more slots to fit Donny in.
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Donny can be sent deeper.
If Ole continues to stick with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s safe to assume that Donny will be sent further down the pitch to form a midfield partnership with whosoever the coach prefers to pair him with (most likely Pogba).
While a midfield pairing featuring Fernandes, Pogba, and De Beek is, no doubt, mouth-watering from an attacking sense, the same cannot be said of its defensive solidity.
For all his attacking attributes, De Beek is not as defensive as either of Matic or McTominay. Meaning that he might not be able to provide Pogba and Fernandes with as much defensive cover as a Matic or Tominay would.
However, that’s not to say that the Dutchman cannot do a decent job at the base of United’s midfield.
Far from it!
In fact, he averaged 2.2 tackles per 90 minutes in the Eredivisie last season, not far off Matic’s average of 2.6 tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League.
Van de Beek is a hard worker known for taking up intelligent positions with and without the ball, and his passing ability would certainly aid United’s build-up play if he is to be deployed at the base of midfield.
His passing abilities can be another great weapon in United’s armoury
Donny is particularly efficient in breaking opposition’s lines and dismantling teams that sit in low blocks. This is thanks, in no small parts, to the fact that he’s coming from a side that is used to playing against opponents that like to “park the bus,”
Van de Beek knows that challenge well, coming from an Ajax side who averaged 60 percent possession in the Eredivisie last season, and his vision is such he excels at finding gaps in packed defences and picking out team-mates with incisive passes through the lines.
Solskjaer may opt to stick with Matic in games against top opposition when United are likely to be more sternly tested defensively, but the prospect of Van de Beek, Pogba, and Fernandes in a midfield three is certainly an enticing one from an attacking point of view.
How about a 4-3-3 diamond?
Another reasonable option would be to deploy Donny in a 4-3-3 midfield diamond. That way, there won’t be a need to sacrifice a natural holding midfielder like Matic to make room for the Dutchman.
Additionally, such a formation switch might even work in favour of players like Paul Pogba.
In case you’ve forgotten, Pogba played some of his best football on the left-hand side of Juve’s midfield, and as we’ve so often seen with France and United, there’s no other position that suits the Frenchman better than that spot.
Interestingly, Van De Beek has also primarily operated on the opposite side of a midfield three during his time with Ajax.
Matic’s presence in the side would give Van de Beek and Pogba greater licence to bomb forward, while it would also enable Fernandes to focus solely on linking up with United’s frontmen.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial would still be able to pull to the flanks, with Van de Beek and Pogba able to take up goalscoring positions either side of them as box-to-box midfielders.