ARNAV KHANNA | 8th September 2021

“Where would you say is your best position?”

“I think for me, it is No.6 or No.8.”

This Donny van de Beek reply to Rio Ferdinand was met with an exasperated shake of the head by me. The Dutch raumdeuter was sitting in front of a screen, talking about how he could fulfill the “Carrick role” for this Manchester United side, in what was a surprisingly candid interview on Rio’s ‘Vibe With Five’ show.

“I really want to play, it doesn’t matter where”, said Donny, accompanied by a nervous smile. You’d just want to get up and walk away from your screen, because it’s clear to see the baby-faced lad is simply putting a brave face on.

As the interview drags on, it becomes a tougher watch. It may seem over the top but at 24 years of age, it’s heartbreaking to see Donny van de Beek stuck in limbo, with things certainly not looking on the up for a player whose exploits and talent deserves more.

What seemed like an open-and-shut case of a discontented player, readying himself for an inevitable move to Everton after agent Guido Albers’ words 2 days ago has suddenly gained another lease of life. Well, at least on the surface.

Clearly, if the Dutchman is ready and capable to plug the gaping hole in United’s much-maligned midfield pivot, surely, he can stroll his way in? No disrespect to Nemanja Matic and Fred, but they simply don’t belong in a side that aims to be clasp the Premier League crown, sooner rather than later.

Scott McTominay is the best of a, let’s say- uninspiring bunch and this just strengthens Donny’s case to become Manchester United’s No.6, at least for the time being.

Well with this club and this player, it is never that simple. Hear me out.

Let’s look at it from van de Beek’s, perspective first of all. The way he has been treated over the past year has clearly taken a toll on his mental health; his words, not mine.

Over the past week, he has experienced a blocked move to Everton by the gaffer, heard promises to be included and been granted a “new Donny” title by Solskjaer. But ever since he landed in Manchester, words have been in big supply, gametime hasn’t

Lest you forget, the Dutch international is a player who was ranked 28th in the 2019 Ballon d’Or rankings. Cultivated amidst the genius of Johan Cruyff’s ideologies, DvB was a product of one of the most advanced tactical systems in the world, drilled into his very being.

And he took these teachings and has ran with them so far. For starters, he ran the Champions League in Ajax’s cinematic run to the final four.

Life comes at you fast and it certainly did at Donny, considering he is left scrambling for a spot in a system in which he should really walk into with his eyes closed, no matter which way you slice it.

Alright, his direct replacement is a hybrid of a No.10 and a shadow striker in a certain Bruno Fernandes. In a sense, the pair profile similarly but the Portuguese Magnifico is elite to the point that it’s no longer a conversation.

Paul Pogba, as a left-sided attacker has shone and gives OGS the license to adopt a more fearless brand of football, as his metaphorical ship is steadied by “McFred”, with Matic joining the band when either miss out.

The unwillingness from Ole to give van de Beek a shot as a No.6 is quite frankly bizarre. Not to play the blame game, but United’s double pivot is quite simply their most blatant weakness and the lack of invention to switch the formula is a headscratcher.

The Dutch international, by his own admission screams more deep-lying playmaker than a signature destroyer in the middle of the park. Guess what?

United need both profiles to win the ball back within seconds, while being dominant on the ball much more to implement a more possession-centric style that can bisect low blocks.

And if we’re being honest, any estimations of how well he fits the role are not based on fact, considering he operated as a sitting midfielder, only till the age of 16.

But considering United’s options in holding midfield, especially McFred, Donny is a clear upgrade, without a doubt.

It’s fair to say that the Dutchman has every right to keep his bags packed for a winter exit as soon as the January window opens.

So, case closed? Not yet. There is one final tactical throw of the dice that can still be considered.

A midfield partnership of Donny Van De Beek and Scott McTominay.

After trying every permutation and combination of defensive midfielders, this is the final option that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is left with. And at the risk of sounding naïve, it presents the best one.

Donny would combine the composure and control of Nemanja Matic with the work rate and tenacity of Fred. On paper at least, he could raise the floor of this United team if given the chance.

Those last 4 words could not be repeated enough. The bottom line is that no player deserves to be treated the way Donny Van De Beek has been treated at Manchester United thus far.

This is van de Beek’s Manchester United career, summed up in a picture

One of the most promising midfielders in world football just brought in and abandoned is equal parts, gut-wrenching and enraging. Whether he was a stop-gap, a case of player profiling gone horribly wrong or simply not an Ole signing, you either give a player a chance or you let them leave.

After all, a footballer’s career gets over in a flash and when you have essentially wasted a year in the name of “acclimatization”, all responsibility falls on your shoulders to keep your word and quite unfairly.

The man can’t essentially elevate overnight, after not kicking a ball for most of more than a season when thrown into the deep end.

Context is key and certainly here.

Also, we cannot downplay the kind of cascading effect such a period can have on a player’s career. You lose your feet at one club and soon enough, you realize that you cannot find them again, no matter how hard you try to.

What goes on, on the pitch is one thing, what concurs inside one’s head is another. Every minute spent on that bench chips away at you.

Stepping on the pitch becomes a battle of proving yourself first, expressing yourself second. Not an ideal order for any sportsperson who is essentially living a childhood dream out.

The final equation is simple. There are 4 months left till the January transfer window. Solskjaer should either finds a home for Donny in the starting lineup or Donny should find a home away from Manchester.

A puzzling situation that awaits a solution.