Donny van de Beek made just four Premier League starts for Manchester United last season. The midfielder had been one of the world’s most sought after talents prior to moving to Old Trafford. That campaign was quite the comedown for the player.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been effusive in his praise for Van de Beek yet he didn’t trust him to play. Solskjaer’s actions of him contradicted his words of him. The discussion surrounding Van de Beek quickly grew tedious but it was the player himself that had to wrestle with his newfound lack of purpose. Van de Beek moved to Manchester in a pandemic and it was undoubtedly challenging.
There was solace for Van de Beek throughout that period: he remained appreciated in the Netherlands national team. Van de Beek wasn’t regularly starting for the Netherlands, but he seemed more valued when reporting for national duty than when arriving for training at Carrington. He looked forward to the European Championship and that was his comfort throughout the winter.
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Last summer’s Euro 2020 promised to provide the opportunity for Van de Beek to prove Solskjaer was wrong. The Netherlands’ group was weak enough for them to comfortably progress and the tournament was exactly what Van de Beek needed.
It was announced five days before the Netherlands’ opening group game that Van de Beek had withdrawn from the squad. He had sustained a groin injury and his tournament was over before it even started. It was hard not to feel sympathy for Van de Beek following that announcement. Euro 2020 was his chance to kick start his United career and it had been denied.
Van de Beek had the benefit of a break – the Netherlands crashed out in the Round of 16 of Euro 2020 – before returning to Manchester to right the wrongs of the previous season. He had a point to prove and he was determined to force himself into Solskjaer’s plans-not just his verbal plans from him. Then encouraging reports would emerge on Van de Beek from Carrington.
It’s understood the 24-year-old worked throughout the summer to add muscle to his physique. His preferred No.10 position was Bruno Fernandes’ and Van de Beek would have to adapt his game to force his way into the starting XI in Solskjaer’s double pivot.
Despite Van de Beek’s solid pre-season and continued calls for him to receive a chance, nothing changed. Solskjaer’s sacking in October provided the player with a clean slate, but Michael Carrick didn’t trust him nor did interim boss Ralf Rangnick. Van de Beek left for Everton on loan in January in search of regular minutes. That was crucial for something that Van de Beek cares about most.
Frank de Boer was sacked after the Netherlands’ poor performance at Euro 2020 and Louis van Gaal took over. The former United boss is hardly known for sentimentality and he dropped Van de Beek from his squad for his nation’s World Cup qualifiers. Van de Beek has not been named in a Netherlands squad since. Van Gaal has always insisted Van de Beek needs regular club minutes.
Van de Beek has made four starts for Everton in the Premier League since his move, which is the same as he managed throughout the entirety of last season, but he was left out of the Netherlands squad once again for the March international break.
To add to the now-familiar insult, three have players withdrawn from that squad and no players were called to replace them.
The midfielder’s omission from the squad made headlines earlier in the season but now it seems par for the course. That has been Van de Beek’s worst nightmare and his hopes of playing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are currently hanging by a thread. That would have been unthinkable watching the Van de Beek of Ajax, but that player has been lost, burdened by the weight of United.
Van de Beek needs to start every game from now until December to have a chance of playing at the World Cup. Van Gaal has made his demands clear to Van de Beek and he’s understood the message. That means it’s likely he’ll leave United this summer.
Van de Beek has wanted to permanently leave United for some time now. He’s set to get that opportunity in the coming months, which will be crucial if he wants to play for the Netherlands again, but the next managerial appointment could soon change that.
Erik ten Hag was interviewed by United earlier this week. The Ajax boss was instrumental in building Van de Beek’s reputation and the pair have a fantastic relationship. It remains to be seen whether Ten Hag is the man for United this summer, but his arrival would be welcomed by Van de Beek. It’s thought he could receive a prominent role under Ten Hag, like during his time with Ajax.
The Dutchman will be hoping United appoint a manager sooner or later, as that decision will have huge ramifications in regards to his own future. There could be another twist in the tale just yet, but Van de Beek needs minutes and he needs them now.
Van de Beek is desperate to play at the World Cup and he’ll do what it takes to get there.
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