As the ink dried on Donny van de Beek’s Manchester United contract in September 2020, the prospect of him leaving Old Trafford on loan within 18 months would not have crossed anybody’s mind.
But with less than a week of the 2022 January transfer window to go, the Dutchman is facing the prospect of exactly that, with Crystal Palace having reportedly registered an interest in his signature.
Putting it bluntly, Van de Beek’s United career has been nothing short of disastrous. Signed for £40million, the all-round midfielder was expected to become a household name at Old Trafford and a long-term figure in the plans of former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But more than one year on and two managers later, Van de Beek’s United career has hit the buffers, Solskjaer has been sacked and the Dutchman’s fortunes show no sign of changing under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
The midfielder has featured in just half of Rangnick’s opening 10 games in charge and has not started a Premier League match since last May, further demonstrating just how difficult a time it has been for the midfielder, who was expected to light up English football just as he had his homeland.
Nevertheless, while United should welcome interest from clubs keen on taking the midfielder on loan for the remainder of the season, an exit could leave United — although it may sound slightly out of sync considering he has barely played — vulnerable in midfield.
Despite having sounded out their desire to sign a new midfielder in this month’s transfer window, United, as things stand, are not expected to be calling on the club photographer to picture any new recruits before Monday’s 11pm deadline.
It is that current scenario that leaves United in a slightly vulnerable position over Van de Beek’s short-term future.
While everyone knows and appreciates how desperate the Dutchman is to leave United in pursuit of regular football — just as any player would be in his current situation — allowing him to leave could leave, even on loan, might not be wise.
Admittedly, for example, when Scott McTominay was suspended for the recent trip to Aston Villa, Van de Beek was once again overlooked, with Rangnick’s picking Nemanja Matic ahead of the Dutchman. At that point, with all due respect to Matic, you could not help but concede that Van de Beek’s luck had ran out.
The fact that United’s matchgoing fans have stood by Van de Beek and continued to chant his name, even when not on the pitch, speaks volumes about what they think of him, They’re keen for the 24-year-old to prove to be a success story at Old Trafford. However, United must face up to a balancing act and think logically about the situation.
The club has had a reputation for stockpiling players in recent years and this season it has caught up with them, with the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard — who could also leave ahead of the deadline — and Anthony Martial (until his Sevilla loan) being the unfortunate victims of that strategy, left to take up a regular watching brief.
But while the decision to let Van de Beek depart on loan could leave United short — especially if injuries set in and Lingard departs — that is not Van de Beek’s doing.
United have failed to offer him what they promised and he should not be denied the chance to head out on loan for a second time, following the collapse of his proposed move to Everton last summer.
Solskjaer blocked that move and, looking back now, it was a pointless decision. He has barely played this season and United cannot deny him the chance to resurrect his career for a second time because of their failures.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.