Manchester United head to Switzerland today to face BSC Young Boys in their first match in Group F of the UEFA Champions League.
United have got off to an excellent start to the domestic campaign and will want to hit the ground running in Europe as well. In order to fight on all fronts, one key improvement that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to make this season is in the use of his full squad.
At yesterday’s press conference ahead of the game, Solskjaer said ‘With the ones we’ve signed as well, it’s easier to rotate, definitely. I trust the members of the squad,’ signalling his intent to address the issue.
One squad member who has now surely waited long enough for his chance is Dutch international, Donny van de Beek.
With Scott McTominay still out injured and aging Nemanja Matic having played 90 minutes at the weekend, this game is surely the perfect opportunity to start Van de Beek in a central midfield role.
Despite some observers – and perhaps Solskjaer himself – believing that Van de Beek’s best position is as a number 10 (or between an 8 and a 10), the player himself recently said in an interview that ‘I think the way we play, for me, the best position is as a number 6 or 8.’
Since his arrival from Ajax last summer, the 24-year-old has only played 37 games for the Red Devils at an average of just 38 minutes per game (source: Transfermarkt.com).
He has played the equivalent of just seven full games in a central midfield role.
Solskjaer’s reluctance to play the Dutchman has baffled fans and pundits alike. Whilst Donny has not set the world on fire when given half-chances by the manager, he has done little wrong either. And the fact is, some players need a run in the team to reach their best, especially when adapting to a new league.
Van de Beek has not yet been afforded such an opportunity by Solskjaer.
Saturday’s game against Newcastle saw the manager give the star his first six minutes of the season. He played well in the little time he had, showing determination and drive and also looking stronger after the fitness and body-building work he did over the summer.
Especially given Fred’s poor start to the season, there are simply no footballing reasons left as to why the manager should not start Van de Beek against Young Boys this evening. There is surely no more important figure in terms of the ability both to rotate the squad and change formation this season and it is crucial that Solskjaer finds the confidence in his player now, rather than keeping him on the sidelines any longer.