Former Manchester United ace Luke Chadwick has spoken to CaughtOffside about Donny van de Beek’s arrival at the club this summer.
The Netherlands international looks an exciting addition to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad after impressing at Ajax, but it’s not immediately clear where he might fit in to the Norwegian’s starting XI.
Although United clearly needed to make signings this summer, it’s arguable that midfield was the one area they were already looking pretty good in.
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Along with big names like Paul Pogba, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay, the Red Devils also signed the excellent Bruno Fernandes back in January.
Pogba, Fernandes and Van de Beek all seem like fairly similar players, but Chadwick has suggested there is room for all three of them in Solskjaer’s starting line up.
The former midfielder, who was a member of the Man Utd first-team between 1999 and 2004, says Solskjaer could benefit from having so many players who are good on the ball as that was still an issue for the team last season.
Chadwick also suggested that Pogba’s improved defensive performances could mean he plays deeper, allowing Fernandes and Van de Beek to be the more advanced of the trio.
“Those three are hugely, hugely exciting when you think about when United have got the ball, but maybe there’s the issue on the defensive side of things. Having said that, I think Pogba’s defensive play has improved greatly since the teams came back from lockdown, in terms of the ground he covers,” Chadwick told CaughtOffside.
“It will be interesting to see how that works. They’re all capable of playing in an advanced midfield role, and they’re all comfortable getting the ball off the back four.
“I think the problem United have had when they hit a bit of a brick wall at the end of last season was trying to find passes from the back four when (Harry) Maguire looked a bit leggy after playing so many games, there were so many sideways passes and they couldn’t really break the lines.
“I think when you look at the likes of Fernandes, Pogba and Van de Beek coming deep to get the ball, it does offer United so much more in terms of playing forward and getting that front three on the ball.”
United have been in a similar position before when they notably spent big to sign Juan Sebastian Veron, but it didn’t quite work out for the Argentine alongside the likes of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.
Chadwick was at Old Trafford when Veron joined and doesn’t feel it was as simple as the club having too many similar players in one area, and doesn’t foresee this being as much of an issue with Van de Beek.
“I think the Veron situation was when United were in a transitional period,” he said. “They were dominant in the Premier League but struggling a bit in European competition when their 4-4-2 would fall down because other clubs in Europe were overloading the midfield area and United couldn’t get on the ball.
“I think Veron came into a side that were trying to change but still playing a 4-4-2. It was quite a structured formation, while Veron was probably years ahead in terms of how he wanted to play the game. He was so free in the position, wanting to pick up balls where central midfield players want to pick up the ball today, but at the time at United because there was two strikers it was so much easier to play through the middle of the United team.
“That was the problem Veron had fitting in, because he was quite a free spirit and wanted the ball in different areas of the pitch than maybe how Scholes, Butt and Keane were brought up to play. But having the honour of training with him he was certainly one of the most gifted players I’ve seen in my life, but maybe didn’t fit in to the structure of the United team at that time.”