Football News

How signing Donny van de Beek could change the Man Utd line-up

By Ben Green

Donny van de Beek to Man Utd transfer news analysis

Published: 22:08, 8 January 2020 | Updated: 10:49, 10 January 2020

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing a transfer offer for Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to reports.

The Red Devils need midfield reinforcements this month after Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba suffered injury setbacks. The latter recently went under the knife, which is expected to keep him out for at least four weeks.

Five things to know about the Donny van de Beek to Man Utd transfer story:

  • The story comes from ESPN, who say Solskjaer is ‘pushing’ club chairman Ed Woodward to sign Van de Beek this month.
  • United are said to see Ajax as willing sellers, due to the financial consequences of their Champions League elimination.
  • It is also claimed the Eredivisie league leaders value Van de Beek, a 22-year-old attacking midfielder, at £50m.
  • Although not mentioned as an interested party by ESPN, last year Van de Beek confirmed talks over a Real Madrid transfer.
  • Regarding any Man United transfer activity this month, Solskjaer said: “If it isn’t the right thing, we won’t do anything.”

Where would Van de Beek fit in at Man Utd?

  • Positions played during the Champions League 2019/20 season, according to smarterscout: CAM/SS (345 minutes), CM (210), DM (181)
  • Positions played during Champions League 2018/19 season: CAM/SS (1,223 minutes), CM (17), DM (72)

In both a literal a metaphorical sense, Van de Beek was central to Ajax’s unforgettable run to the Champions League semi-final last season, during which Erik ten Hag’s side took the scalps of both Real Madrid and Juventus. He spent the knockout stage almost exclusively at CAM in a 4-2-3-1, but is also fielded in a variety of roles, from a shuttling centre-mid in a 4-3-3 from defensive midfield in a two-man pivot.

So Van de Beek could play on the right of a midfield two in United’s most commonly used 4-2-3-1, last filled by Pereira in the 3-1 League Cup defeat to Manchester City. Although typically smarterscout data analysis suggests he does little actual defending in this position with Ajax. Rather, his attacking output is 90, a rating based on a 0-99 scale and benchmarked for the Premier League to show how Van de Beek may perform should he move to Old Trafford.

A more likely option is Lingard’s ‘No.10’ position, in which smarterscout’s ‘similar player*’ search function suggests he would operate in a manner comparable – stylistically – to Marco Reus, Juan Mata or Thomas Muller from during the 2016/17 season.

*smarterscout ‘uses a distance formula based exclusively on eight aspects of playing style: disrupting opposition moves, recovering a moving ball, aerial duels, passing toward goal, link-up passing, dribbling, receiving in the box, shooting. In the search results, the players are ranked so that the ones who have the most similar styles to the model player’s style come first.’

Donny van de Beek to Man Utd transfer: how his statistical profile compares to other stars

How to use smarterscout: the new football analytics tool

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