Donny van de Beek won’t have a better chance to impress than against Granada

To say it’s been a tough year for Donny van de Beek at Manchester United would probably be an understatement.

After signing from Ajax for £40m in the summer, the Dutch international scored on his debut as a substitute in the opening day defeat to Crystal Palace. It was initially thought that he’d be eased into the team, but instead he’s barely had a sniff.

That goal remains his only strike so far this season and he has featured for just 325 minutes in the Premier League so far. The Champions League offered him up a few extra opportunities, but he generally struggled to perform as the Red Devils crashed out of the tournament in the group stages.

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Van de Beek scored on his debut but it’s been rough ever since | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has maintained that he trusts and believes in Van de Beek, yet he hasn’t backed those words up with actions as he continues to leave him on the sidelines. As United went through an injury crisis in midfield recently, he would’ve had the perfect opportunity to step up and show that can cut it – but he was injured too.

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In January he was linked with a move away from the club, while rumours have continued to swirl beyond the winter window deadline. The talk now is that he is determined to prove himself at Old Trafford and fight for his shirt, so what better time to start than now?

He’s had an impact in each of his last two appearances for the Reds, with his dummy allowing Mason Greenwood to score in the FA Cup defeat to Leicester before his movement created space for Bruno Fernandes to cross ahead of Greenwood’s winner against Brighton.

Now, with Solskjaer’s side taking on struggling Granada in a two-legged Europa League quarter final, there may be no bigger opportunity for Van de Beek to announce himself as a Manchester United player.

Donny van de Beek, Paul PogbaDonny van de Beek, Paul Pogba
Van de Beek had a big hand in United’s goal against Leicester in the FA Cup recently | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

It’s a European tournament that the club both want and expect to win. They’re the strongest team left in it by a distance and the draw for their quarter final opponents was kind, managing to avoid all of Arsenal, Roma, Ajax and Villarreal.

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Stylistically, it’s a great match for them too. Granada aren’t the greatest defensive unit, don’t pose the biggest of threats going forward and are prone to being caught out on the counter. Basically, if United could’ve picked their opponent, Granada would likely have been top of their list.

With big Premier League games coming up too, Solskjaer needs to rotate his squad and that should give Van de Beek an opportunity to shine. But all the Norwegian can do is give him minutes, he can’t control what the 23-year-old does with those minutes.

Donny Van De Beek, David De GeaDonny Van De Beek, David De Gea
A frustrated figure on the bench describes Donny’s time at Old Trafford so far | Pool/Getty Images

We’ve seen him be a bit too safe this season, opting to recycle possession rather than play that cut-throat pass into the club’s forwards. It’s one of the reasons that Fernandes has been so successful since joining, because he takes huge risks with the ball.

Van de Beek now must start to adapt to the way United want to play. He’s a tidy, technical footballer but he hasn’t shown enough in any games yet to really justify breaking into the starting lineup or earning more minutes from the start of games as a rotation option.

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He needs to be braver, make those forward passes and not be afraid to turn the ball over. High risk high reward is something he needs to start taking literally.

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The Dutchman won’t have a better chance to announce himself than this quarter final tie | MARTIN RICKETT/Getty Images

There won’t be a better opportunity this season for the former Ajax man to really announce himself. A European quarter final, against opposition that should be dispatched relatively easily with a high amount of possession.

Solskjaer should start him – whether it’s behind or instead of Fernandes – and then it’s up to Van de Beek to take care of the rest.

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