Manchester United, after a long wait, made their presence felt in the summer transfer window when they finally made their first signing. Donny van de Beek, a star in his own right at Ajax, will move to Old Trafford in Manchester from the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam. The 23-year-old central midfielder cost the Red Devils somewhere in the region of 35 million Pounds and given his stellar showings for his former club both in the Dutch Eredivisie and the UEFA Champions League, it is tempting to say that this signing has been a real bargain.
There might even be opportunities to suggest that in van de Beek, United have unearthed a new talent who will serve the club for many years to come. The Dutch international, who subsequent to signing for the Red Devils, went on to put up horror showings for his country in the UEFA Nations League will, however, be unfazed by whatever criticism is coming his way. He has had to work his way up to the top of the ladder at Ajax and it can be believed that he has the talent, skill and discipline necessary to make it big at one of the greatest football clubs in the world.
However, this article does not intend to sing praises of how good a signing van de Beek has been and how he will affect the dynamics of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad. In fact, I am trying to suggest something completely opposite to that.
I am here to argue in this article that signing van de Beek has not been among the greatest things that the club from the Red half of Manchester has done and that his arrival will do very little to solve any of United’s problems. There may be many who disagree but this is just my point of view.
DONNY VAN DE BEEK WILL ADD TO AN ALREADY CROWDED MIDFIELD
One of the biggest reasons why I think that signing Donny van de Beek makes no sense at all is the fact that Manchester United have an already crowded midfield at their disposal.
Manager Ole Gunnar Soslkjaer is in fact spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting players in that area of the football field. Regular starters Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic kept aside, the Red Devils also have the likes of Scott McTominay, Fred Rodrigues, James Garner, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira to fill in for the former three if they choose to rest.
Adding a high-profile signing such as van de Beek in such an already overfilled cupboard is likely to make the tempers run high in the dressing room. There is no doubt that the Dutchman has not been signed to spend time on the bench and this will mean that the likes of Fred and McTominay, who are often seen as the second-choice midfielders in Cup or other knockout ties, will move lower down the pecking order. This will be extremely harsh on the pair of them, as they have given nothing but their best when called upon by Solskjaer in demanding situations.
Fred, for instance, has a very low injury record and is available for almost every game that United play in. His highly efficient work rate and passing has worked tremendously. Fred also has the ability to work the ball into wide and empty spaces which allows his more attack-minded teammates to catch up and get going. McTominay’s ball retention skills are legendary and he has been a vital cog in the United wheel ever since new manager Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho. Relegating this duo even further down the bench will be very harsh given the contributions they have made for to the Red Devils in the past.
MANCHESTER UNITED NEED TO STRENGTHEN OTHER AREAS
It has to be accepted that Manchester United’s midfield is one of the strongest in the Premier League and it does not really require strengthening as such. Even the likes of long-forgotten Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata can do their bit if called upon to display their wares against smaller sides in knockout competitions. Young academy graduate James Garner has almost been forgotten in this melee but his ball distribution and retention skills are noteworthy too.
What is to be said is that Manchester United need to strengthen other areas of their team, such as their defence and attack. Their midfield is in safe hands and the addition of van de Beek in the roster is going to make a lot of players insecure about their own places in the side. This can be negated by the antidote of selling some unwanted squad players (who are often called as deadwood.) There is no doubt in our minds that Pereira and attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard need to be among the first players on the way out from Old Trafford.
If players such as Pereira, Lingard and even Fred (unfortunate though it sounds, it might be perhaps for the best given that United can still command a high price for the Brazilian) make way, then van de Beek’s signing does not look so bad.
However, if these players remain in the team, then it is bound to create fissures and all the harmony displayed by the players under Solskjaer may go up in the air. The latter needs to pick and choose his players well and manage the dressing room atmosphere.
Essentially, Manchester United need to bring in a right winger as it is an area they have been lacking in for ages, as well as a striker, centre back and wing back. A striker is needed and although Odion Ighalo’s loan tenure has been extended up to January 2021, manager Solskjaer needs someone whom he can trust and bring upon in difficult situations. At the moment, Ighalo does not appear to be technically suited to the rigours of the Premier League and although he has put up stellar showings whenever he has been given an opportunity, Solskjaer somehow does not trust him.
If manager Solskjaer manages to bring in another striker who can give Anthony Martial a break when things are not going well, then it will be good business for Manchester United. Although they have long been on the pursuit of Jadon Sancho as a potential right winger, the transfer saga has gone on for ages and there is very little news to suggest that the England international will actually be making his way to Old Trafford at the end of this summer transfer window. If, however, the Red Devils manage to get his signature, then it will be the greatest signing made by them for quite some time.
THE RED DEVILS HAVE BEEN GOOD DEFENSIVELY, BUT THEY STILL NEED REINFORCEMENTS
Another area that Solskjaer needs to focus upon is Manchester United’s defence. Although this defence was second only to that of Liverpool’s in the Premier League last season in terms of goals conceded, it has to be said that Harry Maguire’s partner in the heart of defence Victor Lindelof is prone to make errors from time to time. Agreed that Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly is a ready replacement for him but there are not too many good options beyond him.
The likes of Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling are way past their use-by dates, with the latter now on the verge of making a deal with Italian giants AS Roma permanent. Jones is the biggest liability in United’s books given his injury record and highly unreliable man-marking skills, and he must be sold to clubs in the lower divisions to free up the wage bill and gather some transfer fees while Manchester United still can. Rojo can be kept on as a squad player but his high wage demands make that an unrealistic scenario as well.
All in all, if Manchester United keep any of these defenders, then all they can do is keep paying them wages for doing close to nothing on the pitch. If Smalling goes away to Italy, either on loan again or permanently, neither of Jones or Rojo can ever hope of making Solskjaer’s squad ever again. Manchester United are reportedly in the market for a wing back (Alex Telles of FC Porto and Sergio Reguillon of Real Madrid have been on their spotlight for quite some time now) and in this backdrop, signing a high-profile central midfielder made no real sense.
Ultimately, what Manchester United need to work upon is strengthening those areas which were weakened by the departure of certain players and the signing of Donny van de Beek does not do that. His presence will merely create more dissonance and friction in the Manchester United dressing room, which is not good for their harmony and team bonding.
The Red Devils could have used the money spent on him to make defensive or attacking reinforcements. Van de Beek is too good to sit on the bench and at the moment, it does not seem likely that he can break into the Manchester United starting eleven uprooting Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.