There could finally be light at the end of the tunnel for Donny van de Beek at Manchester United following yesterday’s narrow 1-0 win against Aston Villa.
The Dutchman has failed to establish himself as a regular first-team member following his 2020 signing from Ajax, with fans often belting out ironic cheers when he finally gets minutes on the pitch.
Hopes that he would get more chances under new manager Ralf Rangnick appeared to have faded but the 24-year-old did well when brought on for Edison Cavani in last night’s FA Cup tie and post-match comments from the manager suggest that he could figure more often in the future.
‘The game against Villa today confirmed this, that we would need a minimum of three central midfielders,’ Rangnick said in the post-match press conference.
‘And even with those three midfielders, we had problems in times of the game to control the centre of the pitch.
‘From the very moment when we changed to a diamond in the last 20 minutes, when Donny came on, from that very moment we controlled the game, we had our counter-attack situations.
‘Unfortunately, we didn’t take the right decisions in the final third, so if we had done that we could and should have scored the second goal.
‘But it’s not so easy to control the centre of the pitch and at the same time have our wing players involved and at the same time play with at least one central striker.
‘In order to control and dominate the game you have to have possession of the ball, and make the best out of that possession.’
‘As a coach, I am always somebody who likes to have control and wants more control. It’s a question of balance and we still need to improve in those moments.
Control is an area in which United have consistently struggled in recent months.
Van de Beek’s simple pass-and-go style and energy are arguably exactly what is needed to address the situation.
The issue for Rangnick may be how to fit him in to the side without unbalancing the rest of the team.
On this occasion, it was a diamond formation that did the trick.
A narrow 4-3-1-2 formation may be another solution, with Van de Beek the most advanced of a three man midfield, Bruno Fernandes ahead of him in the number 10 spot and twin strikers leading the charge.
Whatever the formation, Rangnick’s admission that the game proved United need a three-man midfield must bode well for Van de Beek’s chances going forward.