Why are Manchester United Interested in Donny Van de Beek?

Rumours are swirling right now on the Twitterverse that Manchester United are about to hijack Real Madrid’s move for Donny Van de Beek.

The Ajax midfielder was lined up by the Spanish giants, ironically, as an alternative to Paul Pogba and was expected to complete a €50m move to Madrid this summer. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting finances globally, Real have reportedly backed out of the deal.

With Ajax and the player now frustrated that a deal that has reportedly been agreed for months could fall through, Manchester United may be about to save the day.

According to reports in Holland and England, the Red Devils have reignited their interest in the Dutch international and could look to secure his signature quickly. A bid of around €40m is expected to be lodged imminently, although it’s unclear whether that will be enough to close the deal. United are said to be using their contacts wisely here, profiting from the relationship between the club and Ajax CEO – former goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar.

But why are they looking at Van de Beek? Their current midfield options include Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay. Even in a slightly more advanced role United have Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira too. Solskjær has also spoken very highly of young academy talents Angel Gomes, James Garner and Dylan Levitt. So where does Van de Beek fit in?

Well for starters, three of those are expected to be leaving once this season is completed. Jesse Lingard is reportedly weighing up a move to Serie A, with AC Milan interested. Andreas Pereira has reportedly not done enough to impress Solskjær and will look to be sold, while Angel Gomes has a big decision to make on his future with his contract about to expire.

So that leaves the rest. Paul Pogba now looks almost certain to stay at the club, with United also holding the option to extend his contract for an extra 12 months if they so please. Bruno Fernandes has just arrived but has been so good he is almost a lock for any line-ups Solskjær is considering. Fred has improved tenfold since Ole took over and become incredibly important to the balance of the side. Then you have Matic who has just signed a new contract and McTominay, who is constantly praised by the manager.

Van de Beek has more quality than the latter 3 and has a skillset that could help him. It’s undeniable that he is at his best going forward, as he showed when he scored vs Tottenham in last season’s Champions League semi-finals. However his defensive work is overlooked.

In comparison to Fred and Matic, you can see from the images below that he’s not far off statistically in tackles and interceptions per/90 mins. VDB also makes less fouls, although that is likely because he does tend to play slightly further forward than the others.

Defensive statistic comparison between Van de Beek, Fred and Matic
Stats: WhoScored.com

Realistically, Solskjær is doing the right thing in trying to add some quality depth to an area that has been United’s weakness for far too long. The season began with fans screaming that a single injury to Pogba would curtail their season and while that wasn’t quite accurate, Fernandes’ arrival in January while Pogba missed most of the campaign with an ankle complaint has shown just how much they missed him. Van de Beek’s potential arrival will mean that the drop in quality if either of the aforementioned are unavailable is lessened, while his versatility could prove key in a title race.

At 23 years old, Van de Beek has his best years ahead of him and it could even be a case of planning ahead for the departure of Pogba. United have been linked with Jack Grealish for his versatility and ability, but if Van de Beek is available for around the €40-50m mark it would be criminal to pursue a deal for the Aston Villa captain who would almost certainly demand a fee almost double that.

It’s an interesting development in what will no doubt prove to be a very different transfer window this year. It would be sensible business though and that’s something Manchester United fans haven’t been able to talk about for a long while.

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