Despite the January arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, Manchester United have continued to keep their eyes open for further midfield reinforcements.
As has been consistently reported by 90min, Aston Villa's Jack Grealish and Birmingham City prodigy Jude Bellingham are very much on the Red Devils' radar. In fact, they are United's top priority targets this summer - along with Jadon Sancho, of course.
However, United have recently revived their interest in Ajax's Donny van de Beek. The midfielder seemed set to join Real Madrid not long ago, but the financial implications of the coronavirus have forced the Spanish giants to alter their plans. With Real now not looking to bring in any players, the Red Devils have been presented with the chance to take advantage of the situation.
And this is exactly what they're doing as they are preparing a €40m bid to test Ajax's resolve. As reports regarding United's interest have increased, fans will have been excited by the links - but many were quick to pose the question - 'well, this is all very well and good, but where would he fit in? We have Bruno [Fernandes] and [Paul] Pogba'.
Last season, during Ajax's run to the Champions League semi-finals, Van de Beek primarily operated as an attacking midfielder, providing the link between the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Dusan Tadic.
Where would Van De Beek play in a full strength United side?— ㅤㅤً (@tnvr11_) June 7, 2020
However, this season has been different.
Without De Jong in the heart of the midfield, Van de Beek has been tasked with even greater responsibility. He has been asked to drop deeper and play as a central midfielder far more frequently in 2019/20, performing more of a box-to-box midfielder role.
Van de Beek has played as one of the two defensive-minded midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, as an eight on the right hand side of a 4-3-3 and as the creative midfielder as well in 2019/20.
Van de Beek has all the attributes to be a very versatile midfielder. While his performances as an attacking midfielder have grabbed the most attention, his displays in the centre of the pitch have been equally impressive.
He is capable of producing the necessary magic on the ball to unlock a defence or pose a threat in front of goal himself, but the 23-year-old also isn't afraid to put in the hard work for his side.
His tireless running and pressing are key attributes, while he also never shies away from a tackle. A fearless team player, Van de Beek meets the criteria of an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signing.
In addition, he would bring necessary depth and healthy competition to the squad - something which every team competing for titles needs to have. Therefore, there should be no concerns over how and where Van de Beek would fit in - even if Paul Pogba remains at the club. The Dutchman is a completely different player to both Pogba and Fernandes - and the three of them forming a midfield trio could prove to be menacing.
Should Solskjaer wish to add further solidity to the midfield, he could go with a diamond formation with a holding midfielder - such as Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay or Fred - playing at the base of the diamond. Van de Beek is a manager's dream and his versatility in midfield will make him a crucial squad player - no matter where he plays.
At 23, Van de Beek will, of course, only continue to improve with time - but he already has a vast amount of experience playing at a high level.
While the arrival of Fernandes has helped United drastically to take control of matches and break down defences, the addition of a box-to-box midfielder who can contribute both goals and assists while also performing his defensive duties could be just what the midfield needs.
This is what Van de Beek can bring (his ten goals and 11 assists this season proves that), with his composure and understanding of the game allowing him to help Ajax dictate possession in games.
Of course, United are desperate to land Jadon Sancho and a deal to bring him to Old Trafford this summer won't come cheap. Due to the financial implications of the coronavirus, the Premier League outfit have made it clear they won't pay over £100m for his services. Whether or not they are able to conclude a deal when the transfer window opens remains to be seen, but as Ed Woodward himself confirmed, it may not be 'business as usual' this summer.
Van de Beek, however, is a player who fits the bill - both through his on-field displays as well as his demeanour off the pitch - and he could well be available at a very reasonable price. Reports have suggested that Real had an agreement in place to sign the player for around €50m, with the fee potentially rising to €55m. This was before they opted to pull out of the race.
United will undoubtedly attempt to lower Ajax's valuation, considering the current market, but the asking price for a player of Van de Beek's calibre makes a potential deal even more appealing.
In terms of footballing ability, Van de Beek's style of play suits Man Utd and as a player who can operate in both defensive and attacking midfield roles, he would compliment the current midfielders at the club.
As for his personality (which Solskjaer has spoken of as being key with regards to new arrivals), he would bring the same kind of passion that saw fans fall in love with Ander Herrera. It is a move that makes a lot of sense for both player and club.
Source : 90min