The 2020/21 campaign is turning into a season to forget for Donny van de Beek.
Having arrived at Manchester United from Ajax, the midfielder has struggled for minutes and has not started in a league fixture in the last three months.
The 23-year-old has been on the pitch for less than 100 minutes in the last 15 league matches, and was forced to spend 90 minutes on the bench as the Red Devils struggled to create chances in their goalless draw against Chelsea on Sunday.
It was for the 12th time last weekend the Netherlands international finished the Premier League tie as an unused substitute.
Van de Beek’s limited playing time has left a section of the supporters of the English club surprised. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, in his De Telegraaf column, has given his take on the player’s situation at United.
“I think Donny van den Beek is an excellent football player. He has excellent functional technique and despite his young age, he already has the insight to usually make the right choices. He also has a great running ability,” Van Marwijk said.
“He is a player who also has the extra quality to play smart between the lines and has the content to get to the goal at the right time. Someone who can play on ten but also can manage in a more controlling role in midfield.”
“So, I understand that Manchester United paid him some forty million euros last summer. Only he plays far too little. On Sunday he was again on the bench for ninety minutes in the top match against Chelsea.”
“How is that possible? Van de Beek is not suddenly a bad football player or someone who could not handle the level. I think that is why it is not a matter of too little quality, but that other things are also involved in a different environment.”
“Because he is above all a player who grew up and trained in the positional game of Ajax. And who was always played there at the right time when he came in front of the goal or presented himself between the lines.”
Van Marwijk, who is currently managing the United Arab Emirates, has some advice for his compatriot.
He has urged Van de Beek to replicate former Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen, who changed his game after struggling during his only season [2017/18] with the Toffees.
“The same position play that made him so strong at Ajax is not there at Manchester United. There, the spaces he is looking for between midfield and defence of the opposing team are missing or his teammates let the moment pass by,” he explained.
“His well-timed runs are not recognized there. So, this is also the problem for him. He is an excellent player, but at the same time he is dependent on his teammates and the position play that brings his team to the pitch.”
“He also reminds me a bit of Davy Klaassen when he left Ajax for Everton in 2017. Klaassen was perhaps the best player in the Eredivisie at the time and was also at the right age to make the step abroad, but eventually got side-tracked at Everton.”
“The man who often made the difference at Ajax as number ten was hardly found in the Premier League. And just like Van de Beek, Klaassen was also a type of player who was dependent on his fellow players.”
“It’s striking how Klaassen changed as a player in the following seasons. He was no longer the number ten who depended on the right ball at the right time from his teammate, but mainly became a conqueror and runner in midfield. That way he did survive in the Bundesliga at Werder Bremen.”
“In order to succeed and survive abroad, it seems that something else is necessary. Then you will also have to have or develop other qualities.”
“If your teammates overlook you and the game is not aligned with you, you will also need to be able to find your way. Then that good team player will have to think more about themselves and also have the technical and tactical qualities to make the difference on their own.”
Whether Van de Beek follows in Klaassen’s footsteps (he left Everton after one year) or take Van Marwijk’s advice to change his game to fight for his United career remains to be seen.