Donny van de Beek can give Manchester United transfer problem a simple solution

The former Ajax midfielder has struggled for most of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but played well for Man Utd vs Wolves. Don't ...

The former Ajax midfielder has struggled for most of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but played well for Man Utd vs Wolves.


Don't be fooled by the notion that Manchester United's season-ending victory at Wolverhampton on Sunday was in any way easy.

In fact, the circumstances actually made it harder for United than it may otherwise have been — partially out of their own making, due to the need to rest players. But the fact this was fortress Molineux, with fans back for the first and only time in the 2020/21 season, this was Wolves bidding farewell to their beloved manager and that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made 10 changes to his team ought to mean extra credit for United.

Solskjaer's side had not won in four previous visits to Molineux and their results against Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves in general have been poor. They had won just once in seven attempts before doing the double over the Midlanders this season.

So the performances of fringe players take Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Axel Tuanzebe — not to mention the army of youngsters who grasped their opportunities against Wolves — deserve praise.

Solskjaer said he was wary the changes he made to his team might have put United's unbeaten away record in jeopardy, but he need not have worried.

He said: "We knew by making these changes we’d take a risk of losing that record but they did everyone proud, it was a fantastic performance."

Tuanzebe looked to have cemented his spot for the Europa League final alongside Victor Lindelof with another mature performance at the back at Wolves. Telles and others were obviously keen to impress, having been at the periphery of Solskjaer's thoughts for too long — and that showed.

But Van de Beek's performance in the heart of midfield was arguably the most promising aspect of the Wolves win, because of the issues he could solve going forward.

It was previously thought the Dutchman wasn't reliable enough to play as one of two shuttling central midfielders in Solskjaer's preferred 4-2-3-1.

And the fact he started at Wolves in the first place, while Fred and Scott McTominay put their feet up for Wednesday night's showdown in Gdansk, wasn't the place Van de Beek really wanted to be. It was a reflection of his disappointing United career to this point.

But instead of sulking, resting his chin on his chest and ticking down the minutes until his forgettable debut season was over, Van de Beek stood tall. He ran the show against Wolves, beautifully linking defence and attack with a string of silky touches and intuitive passes.

He cleverly won the penalty that Juan Mata converted to give United the three points. He defended diligently and didn't stop running, the way a 'proper' central midfielder should do in this formation.

Previous considerations that Van de Beek was a No.10 and nothing else can now firmly be put to bed.

So while Van de Beek was never going to displace Fernandes in that role, he certainly deserves more opportunities to challenge the Fred and McTominay duopoly in the deeper positions.

The little and large pairing are Solskjaer favourites, dependable and industrious and offering protection for the United back four. They will start the Europa League final against Villarreal — with Van de Beek's return to form coming just too late in the day — and they will likely start next season as the two incumbents in front of the defence.

But thoughts that United needed to sign a challenger to Fred and McTominay, amid long-term interest in West Ham's Declan Rice, might have just been altered by Van de Beek. With Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba both likely to stick around for an extra year, and the Dutchman emerging as a genuine option as a 'No.6', perhaps United are well stocked for the time being.

There is no doubt they ought to be improving upon Fred and McTominay to push Manchester City for the Premier League title. The pairing are solid but not spectacular.

Van de Beek showed glimpses of both the solid and the spectacular against Wolves. He just needs the opportunity to showcase his skills in pre-season and early in the 2021/22 campaign, hopefully after performing for the Netherlands in this summer's European Championship.

It's been a tough year, but the 24-year-old may finally be maturing into a Manchester United player of substance, if he's given the right role.

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