Donny van de Beek has played 50 games for Manchester United; so why does it feel like 20?

Donny van de Beek‘s 89th-minute substitute cameo against Aston Villa was his 50th appearance for Manchester United, fittingly.

He has played 1,836 minutes for the club.

That equates to 20.4 90-minute matches.

Since signing for the club, Donny van de Beek has averaged just 41 minutes on the field per match and that equates to just 38% of total starts.

It gets worse. If you were to recreate these calculations using just Premier League numbers, it becomes 26:35 average minutes per game, and only 14% of total starts. For a guy who was balling out in Champions League semi-finals, being an integral part of one of the finest young European squads we’ve seen in decades with Ajax in 2017, those numbers are just a bit depressing.

Limited impact

Donny has amassed two goals and two assists in his 50 appearances for the Red Devils. The first of his two goals came on as a substitute for his debut against Crystal Palace, where he scored United’s only goal in a 3-1 loss, scoring to claw one back after Palace were already 2-0 up.

His other goal came against Watford in what fittingly ended up being Ole Gunnar Solskjær‘s final game in charge. Hilariously, he scored his goal after coming on as a substitute to claw one back after Watford were already 2-0 up.

His first assist for the club came against Brighton in the EFL Cup fourth round last season, assisting Juan Mata for the second goal in the 73rd minute. He started that game and played the full 90 minutes – one of only nine times he has done so for the club.

His other assist came against Burnley in the league that same season, assisting Edinson Cavani in the dying moments to seal a 3-1 victory. He played seven minutes in that game.

You could argue that even if you take his minutes into context by viewing it as 20 games worth of minutes instead of 50 appearances, 2 goals and 2 assists in that period is not impressive. However, this still doesn’t do Van de Beek much justice, as how frequently are you expected to impact the game via goals and assists if you’re given an average of 41 minutes per game to do so, while his competition such as Bruno Fernandes is given much more time?

Summer 2020

Let’s go back to the beginning; when Manchester United signed Donny van de Beek.

From the get-go, it was clear that Donny is a player who naturally forms fast and long-lasting connections with the fans – something Ajax recognised and wanted to be continued at United, hence their #DreamLikeDonny campaign when he left.

If you go through the official @AFCAjax account, you will find 15 separate tweets with #DreamLikeDonny on them. The connection between him and Ajax is clear, and United fans around the world instantly fell in love with Donny van de Beek.

Now, with this in mind, let’s think back to why Manchester United decided to purchase Van de Beek for a fee of €39,000,000.

That summer, United really wanted Jadon Sancho. He had just come off the back of an incredible season with Borussia Dortmund, producing a brilliant 20 goals and 20 assists in 44 appearances.

However, Dortmund were holding out for a fee of around €120m (or £108m at the time), as he was very hot property. The saga went on for months, starting around February 2020 and lasting right up until the deadline that BVB set for the transfer to be concluded, which was August 10th.

Once United realised that they could not get their hands on Sancho that summer, they turned their main attention to then Aston Villa player Jack Grealish.

United were already interested in Grealish and were thinking about trying to purchase both him and Sancho that summer. They enquired about Jack Grealish that summer and Aston Villa firmly said a price of around £80m would be acceptable, but they would not be bullied.

Grealish later revealed that he was in fact quite close to joining United in the summer of 2020, however, the transfer never materialised and he ended up signing for Manchester City for a fee of £100m 12 months later.

Now, this is when United turned their attention to Donny van de Beek. United were monitoring developments with regards to Van de Beek while trying to reach an agreement with Aston Villa for Grealish, and only once that fell through did they instead pursue an agreement with Ajax for the Dutchman – aided by the club’s positive relationship with Edwin van der Sar.

So, effectively, Donny van de Beek was a third choice transfer. He was a third choice that developed from needing a winger (Sancho) that once he wasn’t available changed into a winger/No.10 hybrid (Grealish) and finally into a movement-based central midfielder (Donny), meaning that Van de Beek ended up being a signing that was meant to play out wide…?

It never made sense to sign him from the beginning.

Should he leave?

In short, yes.

But not for the normal reasons that a player should leave.

Donny, in my opinion, needs a side with creative wingers he can bounce and play the ball off, much like he had at Ajax with players in the ilk of Hakim Ziyech. That’s just not what he is going to get at United.

The squad does have players who can facilitate that such as Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho, but the former is looking like he will soon leave and Sancho is still trying to nail a starting position down.

He needs a new scene, a new squad, a new environment, and most importantly, a stable club.

United are not stable right now, with big changes constantly happening, hundreds of people making counterproductive decisions, new decision-makers being hired as we speak… It’s a bit of a mess and not really a club that a player like Donny should be trying to break into.

I do wish it had happened differently, I really do, because Donny van de Beek is a great player – he was just set up to fail.

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