Manchester United’s squad is in desperate need of a clear-out, and they should begin with a player who is in the most need of a restart. Donny van de Beek.
Van de Beek is one of United’s most technically gifted players, and should therefore be receiving more game time than he currently is if we are being fair to his talents.
However, the inspired form of Bruno Fernandes when he initially joined The Red Devils meant it was impossible for him to get any game time in the number 10 spot. He was also unable to get game time in a central midfield role, with then boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring to use the screening pair of Fred and Scott McTominay.
It’s safe to say the Dutchman has not had the best of times since swapping Ajax and Amsterdam for Manchester in September 2020. But this window should prove to be a fruitful one for Van de Beek, if United are smart about how they want to use him.
Ralf Rangnick clearly feels the same about the situation as his predecessor did. That being that Van de Beek is a good player, but he doesn’t fit with how they want to play.
Rangnick has opted to deploy a 4-2-2-2 most commonly, and this has seen the use of two wingers and two strikers, which has even forced the undroppable Fernandes to play out of his natural position.
Van de Beek is clearly not a holding midfielder either and while United are light on options in centre midfield asides from the two aforementioned destroyers and Nemanja Matic, Van de Beek’s best hope for game time could come in one of these positions.
Despite all that has been said, Van de Beek should not be sold on a permanent basis. Instead, United should look to utilise the loan market and find a place for Van de Beek to get some confidence in playing consistent minutes for the second half of the season.
On the other hand, United do have other priorities when it comes to player sales, such as those of a number of attackers.
United are blessed to have an abundance of quality in their attacking positions. But this has left the squad top-heavy, occupying squad space and wages that could be better spent in positions United need as a matter of import, such as in centre midfield.
Some of these attacking players include Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, who are all still currently available to play (Paul Pogba would be included but he is injured so therefore unable to be transferred before the window ends).
Martial and Lingard have both courted interest from a number of clubs and both made their desire to leave United known. And United should look to start off their gutting of the current squad with sales like these.
Lingard has a few months left on his contract so they should try and sell him for around £10m-£15m while they can still get something tangible for him.
Meanwhile, Martial has a number of years left on his current deal and could fetch a decent fee if the right bidder came in. While a loan move is being explored, United would probably be better off simply cutting him from their books completely before the summer, or at least loaning him out with an option to buy in the future.
Fan favourite Mata has also been a great servant to the club, but the time for compassion has long past and while United are not likely to be able to fetch a big fee for him in January due to his age and contract, they should try and get him off of the books and reinvest the consequent spare funds into player transfers in the summer.
Mind you, while these are the deals United should do now, there should be a significant number more to come in the summer in order to improve the squad in order to get United back to competing for the Premier League.