Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

How do Manchester United solve the Van de Beek issue?

Ask any United fan if Donny Van De Beek has quality and majority of fans will tell you that he has loads of it. Ask any United fan how to get the best out of the 23-year-old and that’s where opinions start to divide.

A product of the Ajax Academy, Van de Beek lives and breathes football. His one-touch, two-touch play is exquisite, very rarely making a mistake. He thrives in a possession-based system where he can get lots of small touches of the ball and override the opposition with possession.

Arguably his best position is No.10 as it’s the position that got the best out of him at Ajax.

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In that central area, he is able to help in the build-up phase of play when Ajax were in their defensive third and in the middle third of the pitch.
Van de Beek starts to come to life once he gets into the opponents final third. From here he’s looking for the quick ball into feet where he can either play a simple one-touch pass back to his teammate or gives clever little flicks around the corners to help get his teammates through on goal in tightly compacted spaces. Donny Van De Beek is one of the best in the world at this.

One could liken Van de Beek to Thomas Muller. Muller is famous for being a Raumdeuter, which is German for ‘Space Investigator’. Donny is a master at this interpreting space. His exquisite technique in tight spaces and high football IQ allow him to find pockets of space between opposition players where he is most effective. He likes to feed teammates through with clever pass and move patterns. The midfielder can then get into the box where he can find the return pass and use his strong finishing technique to finish those chances. Van de Beek is very dangerous in the opposition box.

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The big problems with Van de Beek at United are that firstly; his favoured position is occupied by a certain Portuguese Magnifico who is simply undroppable. Secondly, when Donny does play at No.10 he doesn’t receive the ball quick enough in the spaces that he thrives in. This could be down to his lack of playing time and his teammates not being on his wavelength. The Dutch international simply has not been given a consistent run in the side to stamp his authority on this team. This makes it impossible to build chemistry with the players around him. He consistently gets overlooked in favour of other names and when he does get on the pitch it’s for 5 minutes… that’s simply not enough time for any player to get into the game let alone affect it.

So how should we go about fixing these problems and getting this obviously talented player into our team? Well, here’s a solution.

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Play Donny in the double pivot but use him like a No.8.
Yes, that might be obvious to most United fans as Donny was supposedly brought in to be Paul Pogba’s replacement for his inevitable departure but when he’s been implemented in the double pivot we simply don’t see the best of him.

The somewhat negative formation that United consistently use to cover the frailties of our CB’s who require the protection from a double pivot as opposed to a sole defensive midfielder. The obvious solution would be to sign a centre back with pace (but we all know how incompetent our board is) so perhaps a shorter-term solution should be to use Donny slightly different from that deeper position.

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When United build-up from the back we can use our standard 4-2-3-1 and use Van de Beek to help us build through the press. Then Donny should turn into move into that Box-to-Box midfield position where he can use his great energy to get upfield and provide deeper players with passing options.

The big change that needs to be made is in the final third. Instead of leaving the ex-Ajax man deep in this position like we are used to seeing, we should encourage him to get beyond Bruno Fernandes and get into the opposition’s box where we can cause problems. The freedom would allow Fernandes to be able to drop slightly deeper to get on the ball while the Dutchman starts pulling men away from him, allowing United’s talisman to play those risky passes that we all love. It will also give Fernandes the extra option of being able to play the ball to Donny who will cause confusion as making a run from deep would mean opposition players have to react and one of them have to pick him up.

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Alongside the non-stop movement of Cavani in the box and the ever-present threat of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood on either side and you imagine the fear that would cause. If they choose to not pick up Donny’s runs and leave him free then Fernandes has more than enough quality to pick him out. If they decide to track Donny’s run then that leaves more space for Cavani, Rashford and Greenwood to exploit or even for Fernandes to move into to get his long shots off.

Player Ratings: Manchester United 1-0 West Ham (AET)

This small tactical tweak in our approach play could make a massive difference. A lot of people have gotten on Donny’s back for not looking for riskier passes in the final third but we eliminate that problem by giving that responsibility to Fernandes who is the king of risk-taking passes. The only problem that may arise is finding the right balance in midfield, we have Fred, Scott Mctominay and Matic who all have their limitations as the deepest lying midfielder, so clearly, a world-class defensive midfielder in the summer is needed to allow United to evolve.

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With the recent injury of Paul Pogba we won’t get a better time to start trusting Donny with more game time and find out what he’s all about.

We all remember how much someone like Fred struggled when he first came to United and now he’s one of our most important players in the squad. We must not lose faith with Donny and instead, we should back him and give him all the encouragement he needs. The Dutchman could be the key to start breaking down these low-lying blocks more consistently which is arguable our biggest problem in attack.

Donny has the ability to elevate this United team to the next level. Now is the time for Ole to back our Dutch Maestro and show us what he’s made of.

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