Published On: Wed, Sep 2nd, 2020

Man Utd transfer news: What Van de Beek signing may mean for Pogba and Fernandes | Football | Sport

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Manchester United have announced the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax, making the Netherlands international their first signing of the summer at the cost of £40million. The 23-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the option of an extra one-year extension and helps bolster United’s midfield, adding extra quality as they plan a tilt at the Premier League title.

It means United, who had also been linked to Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish this summer, now boast a plethora of attack-minded midfielders – not least Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in addition to Van de Beek.

The duo were star turns for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side after the Premier League restart, helping them to clinch a third-place finish in the Premier League and in turn seal Champions League qualification.

And with Pogba committing his future to Old Trafford, per his agent Mino Raiola, Solskjaer now faces a task as to how he gets the three midfielders into the same team – if indeed he plans to.

Van de Beek’s conversations with the Norwegian coach are thought to have been crucial in his decision to move to Manchester, despite Real Madrid and Barcelona having also held long-standing interest in the player.

Reports have indicated that Solskjaer has told the Netherlands international he sees him playing as the team’s No 10 – although that was where Fernandes flourished last term.

Upon arriving from Sporting Lisbon in January, Fernandes produced eight goals and seven assists in 14 Premier League games, also adding four goals and one assist in eight FA Cup and Europa League outings.

But Solskjaer’s plans seem to suggest either that the Portugal international could be deployed in a deeper role in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which Solskjaer has tended to go with despite occasionally using a three-at-the-back system, or that Van de Beek will swap in and out of the side for Fernandes.

Fernandes appeared leggy towards the end of last season and had no real high-quality competition for the No 10 role previously.

In what will be a chaotic campaign, regularly bringing one in for the other could help both to stay fresh into the business end of the season, which will have very few breaks due to it being a month shorter.

Van de Beek’s versatility favours him, given that if Solskjaer sees him playing a squad role, in addition to replacing Fernandes, he could also step in as the No 8 over Pogba or even potentially as the No 6 over the ageing Matic in the manager’s favoured 4-2-3-1 set-up, though he would have to be trained to suit the latter position. 

But Solskjaer said of his new signing on Wednesday: “His ability to see space, time his movements and read the game will really complement the qualities that we have in midfield and his arrival really strengthens the depth of talent we have in that position.”

And so it seems the treble-winning former striker may indeed have designs on including all of Pogba, Fernandes and Van de Beek in the same team.

In a 4-3-3, that would presumably see Pogba or Van de Beek deployed as the deepest-lying player with the other and Fernandes then in the box-to-box positions.

While in a 4-2-3-1, either Fernandes or Van de Beek can take up the central playmaking role with the other two in a pivot as two No 8s.

Though known for his offensive output, Van de Beek is also strong defensively and would be able to adapt to a more disciplined role over time. 

A similar partnership of Van de Beek/Fernandes and Pogba could be used if Solskjaer intends to more permanently switch to playing with three central defenders, given a 5-3-2/3-4-2-1 would utilise a two-man pivot with a No 10 in front.

Former England and Premier League manager Steve McClaren says he fears for the future of World Cup winner Pogba, who he thinks is most likely to suffer from Van de Beek’s arrival.

Speaking to talkSPORT, the ex-Twente boss, who won the Dutch top flight in 2010, said: “He’s a little bit similar to Fernandes but I think Fernandes has got that pass that, where Van de Beek is in the box Fernandes will pick him out – Manchester United didn’t have that before.

“The only one I probably fear for, and it’s a debate that’s gone for a while, is Paul Pogba. Because you can’t play Van de Beek as your controlling, holding midfield player, he’s got to be an ‘eight’ or a ‘ten’, and at the moment Pogba is the ‘eight’ and Fernandes is the ‘ten’.

“But maybe because of Pogba’s inconsistencies and Ole wanting more consistency there, Ole is laying down the gauntlet for Pogba.”

Yet despite McClaren’s comments, Pogba should still play a key role in 2019-20. The 27-year-old was excellent after the restart in the box-to-box role, with Matic often deployed as the holder alongside him in a midfield two.

But with Matic now 32, despite also impressing last term, the United manager will know he needs a succession plan for the Serbian. Could Van de Beek the man? Possibly, but much surer conclusions might be able to be made by the new year.

Though putting Van de Beek, Pogba and Fernandes all into the same team may be risky defensively, the offensive prospects of such a midfield make-up if they can get the balance right – added to firepower of the club’s front three – could make United as frightening as any Premier League team this season.

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