Manchester United fans demanded it, and finally they got it.
On Wednesday night, Donny van de Beek was finally established for the Reds, lining up against Young Boys in the Champions League.
Although the game was a bit of a dead rubber, with the Reds already qualified as Group F winners, the chance to see some of the players on the squad’s periphery, as well as some of the club’s emerging talent, added. an extra layer of intrigue for United fans to listen to.
Of all the players who started the game, however, it was Donny Van de Beek that many United fans were looking forward to the most.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tutelage, the Netherlands international was largely an outcast. He had only started in one other game this season – against West Ham in the League Cup – and had even struggled to find cameos.
With Rangnick’s arrival came new hope, a second opportunity for the 24-year-old to launch his career at Old Trafford.
Still, based on Wednesday’s display, it’s hard to envision its take-off. That’s not to say the former Ajax star played badly, he didn’t. But he didn’t shine either.
And the fairly forgettable beige performances have been a staple of his United career whenever he has had the chance to make an impression.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why he couldn’t be the influential figure many United fans desperately want him to be, some of his issues seem to relate to his tendency to play too cautiously in possession.
As those who have watched the midfielder regularly have surely understood by now, Van de Beek tends to finish most of his actions with two touches. Receive the ball in the feet then try to make it advance quickly.
This trait isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be good for a quick possession game. Still, overdoing it, especially when that’s not the team’s primary tactic, may indicate a reluctance to take responsibility.
Compare that to Bruno Fernandes, a player Van de Beek initially had to compete with. Fernandes takes a lot of calculated risks, tries a lot of ball transport, dribbling, shooting and key passing which makes him a very influential member of the team.
Given Van de Beek’s profile and style, it is now widely believed that he is better suited to play in a deeper position on the pitch.
Yet even playing deeper, this eagerness to dodge responsibility with the ball can lead to problems, as we saw during the Young Boys’ preparation for the goal on Wednesday.
Van de Beek has plenty of room to turn away after receiving the pass at the edge of his own box.
Instead, he chooses to touch and place a pass through Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s feet to his right.
The United right-back has an opponent right behind him and is by no means the most technically competent player on the squad, which makes it a bad decision for the Dutchman.
Young Boys’ Fabian Rieder steps in and intercepts before finishing superbly in the top corner of Dean Henderson’s net.
There is a caveat to all of the above. After so long in the wilderness of the United States, there’s a chance the 24-year-old’s confidence is at an all-time low, which impacts his conviction and desire to be braver in possession. .
However, with a new manager at the helm, such doubts would have to be overcome, otherwise the midfielder could risk falling out of favor again.