Manchester United have finally completed the signing of Dutchman Donny van de Beek from Eredivisie Champions Ajax for £40m, but just where will the Dutch midfielder fit in at Old Trafford?
Manchester United has been linked with Donny Van De Beek the whole summer, being tipped as the favourite to land the creative Dutch midfielder with 9/4 Odds via the Coral Cash Out App.
Van de Beek, aged 23, has been played a crucial role for Ajax over the past three seasons, helping them reach the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2018/19 and retain the Eredivisie title twice, all while scoring 41 goals in just 175 appearances.
The Dutch midfielder signed a five-year contract with the Red Devils, with an option to extend the contract for a further year.
He had been scouted lengthily by Manchester United, according to reports by Sky Sports News, but how will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fit him into the same midfield as Paul Pogba and emerging superstar Bruno Fernandes?
Van De Beek Played in a Deeper Role?
Van de Beek is renowned for his attacking abilities. He has provided a regular supply of goals and assists from the midfield during his time at Ajax. Van De Beek also ranks highly in recovering possession in the final third, further emphasizing his tendency to play higher up the pitch.
But with Fernandes and Pogba already in place at United, Van De Beek may be needed in a much deeper role at United.
Solskjaer favours using 4-2-3-1 formation, and while Donny Van de Beek's history suggests he would be more suited to the No. 10 role in that system, there is little chance of Fernandes losing his place in the starting 11.
Van de Beek is therefore likely to be paired with Paul Pogba at the base of the midfield as an alternative to Matic.
The Dutch international is obviously not as defensively-minded as Matic, but he is not one to shirk his off-ball duties either.
In fact, Van De Beek averaged 2.2 tackles per 90 in the Eredivisie last season, not too far off Matic's average of 2.6 tackles per 90 in the Premier League.
Van de Beek is an energetic player known for filling up intelligent positions with and without the ball at his feet; ontop of this, his passing ability would surely aid United's build-up play if deployed at the base of midfield.
That passing ability would be beneficial in games against opponents who like to sit deep and use a low block in order to frustrate United.
Van de Beek knows that challenge more than anyone, coming from an Ajax side who averaged little over 60% possession in the Eredivisie just last season. Van De Beek improved his vision last season, learning to excel at finding gaps in crowded defenses and picking out teammates with precise passes through the lines.
Solskjaer may choose to stick with Nemanja Matic in games against top opponents when United are more likely to be tested defensively. Still, the prospect of Donny Van de Beek, Paul Pogba, and Bruno Fernandes in a midfield trio is undoubtedly an exciting prospect from an attacking point of view.
A Change of System by Ole?
The signing of Donny Van de Beek could signal a change of system by Ole.
Solskjaer rarely moved away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 last season, but he may be forced to if he is planning to fit Van de Beek into the same side as Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
One of the options would be to narrow his formation by removing one of his wide forwards and using a midfield diamond.
This would allow Nemanja Matic to remain in his holding role and Bruno Fernandes to stay at No 10, allowing Van De Beek and Pogba to be more creative going forward.
Paul Pogba played some of the best football of his career on the left-hand side of the midfield, while Donny Van de Beek primarily worked on the opposite side of the midfield during his time at Ajax.
Matic's presence in the midfield would give both Van de Beek and Pogba a greater license to bomb forward, while it would also allow Fernandes to focus exclusively on linking up the play with United's front men.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford would still both manage to pull to the flanks, with Van de Beek and Pogba taking up goalscoring positions to either side of them operating as box-to-box midfielders.