Donny van de Beek to Manchester United: Where will he fit in?

Van de Beek, 23, has been a key figure for Ajax over the last three seasons, helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2018/19 and scoring 41 goals in 175 appearances overall.
The Dutch midfielder has signed a five-year contract at Old Trafford, with an option to extend for a further year.

He has been scouted extensively by Manchester United, according to Sky Sports News, but will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be able to fit him into the same midfield as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba?

A deeper role for Van de Beek?
Van de Beek is best known for his attacking qualities. He has provided a regular stream of goals and assists from midfield during his time at Ajax. He also ranks highly in terms of recovering possession in the final third, further underlining his tendency to play high up the pitch.
But with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba already in place at Manchester United, he may be needed in a deeper role at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, and while Van de Beek’s record suggests he would be best suited to the No 10 role in that system, there is little prospect of Fernandes losing his place in the side.

Van de Beek is therefore more likely to be paired with Pogba at the base of midfield as an alternative to Nemanja Matic.
The Netherlands international is not as defensively-minded as Matic, of course, but he is not one to shirk his off-the-ball duties either.

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.
That passing ability would be particularly useful in games against opponents who sit deep and use a low block to frustrate United.

Van de Beek knows that challenge well, coming from an Ajax side who averaged 60 per cent 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.

A change of system from Solskjaer?
The signing of Van de Beek could also signal a change of system.

Solskjaer rarely deviated from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation last season, but he may have to if he is going to fit Van de Beek into the same side as Matic, Pogba and Fernandes.One option would be to sacrifice one of his wide forwards and use a midfield diamond.

This would allow Matic to remain in the holding role and Fernandes to stay at No 10, and it might also suit Pogba and Van de Beek.

Pogba has played some of his best football on the left-hand side of midfield, while Van de Beek has primarily operated on the opposite side of a midfield three during his time with Ajax.

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