Welcome To FPL: Donny van de Beek

Manchester United have all but wrapped up the signing of van de Beek (VDB) from Ajax for a sum of around £40m, subject to a medical he will undergo this week. But what exactly can he give Man United, and is he of any FPL interest to us?

The below will explore and detail his background, how he’s likely to improve Man United, how he may fit into Ole’s current side and whether he’ll be a viable FPL asset to us.

Donny van de Beek was close to joining Real Madrid prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but he did not complete a medical or sign an agreement with the club.

What makes him so special that he was so sought after by not only Real Madrid, but Barcelona too?

Background

VDB has risen from the youth academy at Ajax, playing for Jong Ajax (their reserve team) before getting his first team debut in 2015 in a Europa League match against Celtic.

Van de Beek truly burst onto the European scene as part of the electrifying Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season. He was one of their standout young stars alongside Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong – now at Juventus and Barca respectively.

He scored three goals on Ajax’s incredible run to the last four, including the only goal of the game against Tottenham in the first leg of their semi-final tie. He scored a further nine in the Eredivisie as Ajax won their first league title in five years with 10 assists.

VDB can operate in a central or attacking role and has been described as the classic box-to-box midfielder.

He has developed that special talent of making late runs into the area to latch onto forward passes, catching out even the most astute of defenders – akin to Frank Lampard in his prime!

Offensive numbers on VDB from last season (screenshot from whoscored.com)

In addition to these strong attacking numbers from midfield and the main description of him being more ‘attack minded’, he also has the ability to defend well, registering 2 tackles a game in the Eredevisie last season, 4th highest amongst the Ajax squad.

Defensive numbers on VDB last season (screenshot from whoscored.com)

How would he slot into Man United’s current system, and how will he improve them?

Some have said, because he’s more an attack minded CM and United have Bruno Fernandes and Pogba currently operating in the more attack minded central positions, that there’s no place for another attack minded central player.

This would be true if the case was that VDB didn’t have any defensive ability at all, but as we see from the numbers above, he’s perfectly capable of sitting deeper in front of the defence, making tackles and cutting out passes and dictating the play from a deeper position.

VDBs playing positions from last season (screenshot from Whoscored.com)

He’s far too good for a bench role and as we can see above, he played at defensive midfield on 6 occasions last year, and it didn’t negatively affect his performance, nor did it curtail his attacking threat, having scored 3 goals from that position.

Above, is how I expect United to line-up for the majority of their games next season when VDB completes his medical and subsequent move after his involvement with the Netherlands.

I suspect, in games against tougher opposition, where United won’t be able to dominate possession, that Ole will look to include Fred, McTominay, Matic for a more defensive minded approach and even change formation to suit the opposition.

Ole often made use of a 5 at the back formation last year against the likes of Liverpool and City, to try to play on the counter and I suspect it may be similar again this year.

VDB would perhaps be sacrificed in these matches for the more defensive styled Matic, with VDB an option later on in games for energy and his ability to break beyond the attackers with that late run that’s so difficult to pick up.

In an attacking sense, the addition of VDB will give Bruno and Pogba, United’s chief creators, another runner to target on top of Rashford and Martial.

One who’s intelligent, who can time his runs to perfection.

One that can exploit the space in front of the defence when the attackers push the backline back into the box for a cut back, or one that can make use of defenders being pre-occupied with the likes of Greenwood, Martial and Rashford, to spot him ghosting in behind for a clipped pass over the top.

United will also get someone who has an eye for a pass, having registered 1.8 key passes a game in the Eredivisie last season and 1.6 key passes in the Uefa Champions League.

On top of that, the guy can defend; averaging 2 tackles and 2.2 tackles in the Eredivisie and UCL respectively.

He really looks to be the complete package that could help United in every department and it’s no surprise that both Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested in his services – credit to the relevant Manchester United representatives for making this one happen and according to a source close to VDB, Ole played his part…

A viable FPL asset?

With Hakim Ziyech coming in from Ajax this year to Chelsea as an £8m attacking midfielder on the back of 18 goal contributions in the Eredivisie, we’d have to assume that VDB, given his central position and less goal contributions (13), would come in at a little cheaper.

I think £7m-7.5m should be a fair price for him and I’d expect that’s what FPL will go with – so long as they remain fair and logical!

Pogba is valued at £8m, but he has pedigree in the PL and has, in the past, been a main source of attacking threat for Man United, so I think it would be unfair to price VDB the same as both Pogba or Ziyech.

Post-lockdown, I have noticed that Pogba has been sitting quite deep, linking play from the defence, to the attack, letting Bruno Fernandes do the main creative work higher up the pitch.

So, if Ole sticks with the above 4231 system, I suspect it would allow, in the majority of United’s games, for VDB to play his preferred box-to-box role in CM, where he would look to support the attack and make those late, Lampard-esque runs into the box where I foresee a decent amount of goals.

I think his returns could be quite sporadic however.

I don’t expect him to be offering attacking returns consistently, but I think that he could be one that offers a purple patch at some stage of the season, like an uninjured Aaron Ramsey back in his Arsenal days.

Perhaps not one for the off, but certainly one to keep a close eye on.

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