How Donny was discovered
Even at four years old, Donny van de Beek knew being a footballer was the career he longed to have.
His Dad André took him to his first Ajax match, in August 2001, for the Champions League clash with Celtic - ironically the very same club he would make his senior Ajax debut against, and Donny recalled how straight away he knew being out on the pitch was what he wanted.
"At that time I kept saying to my father, like what all the little boys say, I want to be a professional football player," explained Donny, during an exclusive in-depth interview for Inside United. "I said to him ‘I want to be an Ajax player’ and he laughed a little bit, but he said if you want to do it then you have to do your best.
"I said it all the time that I wanted to play in the first team and I said to all the people ‘you will see, I will go and play there in a few years’ and I did it so it’s funny to look back on it."
As youngsters, he and his younger brother Rody both played for Veensche Boys and it was there that he got spotted by the man who became his friend and mentor Harm Grevink. And it was Harm, now in his 70s, who got him his break with Ajax.
"He saw me for the first time in my old club Veensche Boys and he brought me to Ajax," revealed Donny. "In the holidays I wanted to train a little bit more and I did that with him all the time. He’s a special person.
"A lot of things that I did when I was younger with my football I did with him - shooting, getting fit for the pre-season, I trained a lot with him, and as a person I spoke a lot with him and he helped me a lot."
Asked what Harm thinks about Donny's recent move to Old Trafford, the 23-year-old added: "He said to me he’s really proud of me and now that I have grown up he wants to see me do what I did with Ajax with United and he hopes that I can have a lot of nice experiences here."
"I had a lot of ups and downs. It was not always with me going up, also sometimes I felt not so good," he explained. "When I was younger I always had to drive a long way… I lived in a small village and it was maybe 40 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam and when I was younger I was in school as well. So they were long days, 8 o’clock in the morning I was going on the bus to school and I wasn’t getting home until 8 o’clock at night. But that all made me stronger."
Reflecting on his learnings as a youth-team player at Ajax, Donny recalls: "A lot was about the position game, the technical part of the game. In the Ajax youth team you have really good coaches and really good players and this is what has made Ajax so big. A lot of young players get a chance in the first team and then they make a good career and they go to big clubs, this is what Ajax do. This is also what I learnt.
"I learnt a lot about football skills with the ball… you had everything in the youth team, all the possibilities to improve a lot and that is what helped me so much."
Van de Beek: My journey from Ajax to United
Donny is our cover star for the latest edition of Inside United magazine and you can see part of his interview here...
Looking ahead to what he hopes to achieve as a Red, the midfielder insists he will do everything to help the team and keep improving himself.
"I always trust in myself and for sure you can always improve and be better and I will always work hard to make those steps and still now I will continue to do that," he declares. "I have made a good step from Ajax to United and now I want more and more and I want to help the club win prizes. We will fight for everything."
Read the full interview with Donny in the October edition of Inside United - order it now.