Donny van de Beek

What did we learn from van de Beek’s first game?

Donny van de Beek made his first Manchester United appearance during Saturday’s friendly clash with Aston Villa.

The midfielder, who only trained with his new team-mates for the first time this week, put in a solid performance for the Reds, but could not prevent us from falling to a 1-0 defeat.

However, United were missing several key players in the West Midlands and, with building fitness very much the main objective of the afternoon, there were still plenty of positives to take from the loss against Dean Smith’s men.

Getting 90 minutes into van de Beek’s legs is certainly one of them. Prior to Saturday, Donny had played just over an hour of football in six months, so the warm-up match against Villa will have significantly boosted the Dutchman’s fitness levels.

The encounter also gave us a first indication of what role the 23-year-old will have in the United team. Donny began the game in a deeper central midfield role alongside Scott McTominay. The duo worked well together in the middle of the park, with van de Beek’s elegance and composure complemented by Scott’s all-action, energetic approach.

From centre-midfield, the former Ajax man dictated the pace and flow of the game in the first half and ensured United retained possession for long periods in the opening 45 minutes.

Yes, there was a bit of rustiness to Donny’s game - that’s to be expected - but it was clear, even from this outing, that United have completed a shrewd bit of business by adding van de Beek to our squad.

In particular, a ball out to Daniel James around the half-hour mark indicated what Donny’s all about. The weight of pass and placement were perfect and only the assistant-referee’s flag denied the Wales international an opportunity to run at the Villa backline.

But it wasn’t all precision passes and neat interplay, we also saw one instance of the uglier side of the game - something all successful sides require.

When Villa’s main man Jack Grealish picked up the ball on 14 minutes and started venturing forward, the hosts could have been set to launch an attack. Donny put paid to that by giving away a foul that helped his team-mates out.

As the game went on, the Netherlands international was pushed further up the field and into a no.10 role. It’s in this position that Donny really announced himself to the footballing world with his sublime performances for Ajax in the Champions League.

From that part of the pitch, van de Beek had more of an opportunity to roam across the field - once or twice he was even United’s furthest forward player, while he also occasionally flitted into the wide areas.

Positioned behind the striker, Donny repeated looked to slip balls into James and Jesse Lingard, and he provided several promising link-ups with the duo. He created an opening for Ethan Galbraith in the closing stages with one swift pass.

It may have been his first game for the Reds, but already the signs look good for van de Beek. His adaptability, range of skills and all-round ability level will give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an extra option in 2020/21, a season that kicks off in just seven days’ time. And he's already made a positive impression on Luke Shaw, who told us: “He's done really well considering he's only trained with us for two days. The most important thing for him is getting to know the players and knowing how each other plays, so we've got the whole week, next week, to slot him in. So far, so good. He's a very nice guy so I'm sure he'll slot in really well.”

Whether we’ll see Donny from the off when we take on Crystal Palace next weekend is another thing, given his lack of match fitness. But rest assured, over the course of the campaign Donny has a big role to play in this United team.

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