Donny van de Beek: Manchester United bought midfielder to attack, says Marcel van der Kraan

Van de Beek has joined United on a five-year deal and could make his debut against Crystal Palace on September 19 - live on Sky Sports Premier League

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer views Donny van de Beek as an attacking midfielder, says Dutch football expert Marcel van der Kraan

Donny van de Beek can play "everywhere on the pitch" but Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the midfielder's key strength is "getting in the box", says Dutch football expert Marcel van der Kraan.

United announced the signing of Van de Beek from Ajax on Wednesday on a five-year deal for a fee rising to £39m.

The 23-year-old completed a medical in the Netherlands on Monday and will travel to the UK after his country's Nations League games against Poland (September 4) and Italy (September 7).

    Van de Beek becomes United boss Solskjaer's first signing of the summer transfer window and could make his debut against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on September 19, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

    Whether Solskjaer is able to fit Van de Beek into the same midfield as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba remains to be seen, but De Telegraaf journalist Van der Kraan believes the Netherlands international was bought mainly for his ability in the final third.

    Donny van de Beek
    Image: Van de Beek could make his Manchester United debut against Crystal Palace on September 19 - live on Sky Sports

    He told the Transfer Talk show on Sky Sports News: "I think Donny has learnt in the Ajax academy to play everywhere on the pitch.

    "Of course, he concentrates on the midfield but he is very versatile. They learn at Ajax from a very young age that they have to play left-back, right wing etc, and in that midfield he can almost play everywhere.

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    "His strength, though, and I think Solskjaer has put this to him, is getting in the box. He's got massive stamina, he's got an eye for goal and he's got loads of assists.

    "I think in that Champions League year where Ajax got to the semi-finals he proved his point that, 'I can play at the top level, I can do this at Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona', and he has his chance now at Old Trafford."

    Van de Beek was close to joining La Liga champions Real Madrid prior to the coronavirus pandemic - after Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar revealed the midfielder would be allowed to leave - but a transfer failed to materialise.

    After scouting Van de Beek extensively, it was United who moved quickly to secure his signature.

        Van de Beek - who scored 41 goals in all competitions for Ajax - has chosen to wear the No 34 shirt for United as a tribute to his former team-mate, Abdelhak Nouri, who suffered brain damage after having a heart attack during a game in 2017.

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        Van de Beek has chosen to wear the No 34 shirt for Manchester United as a tribute to his former Ajax team-mate, Abdelhak Nouri

        Analysis: Where will Van de Beek fit in at Man Utd?

        Sky Sports' Nick Wright...

        Donny van de Beek has been a key figure for Ajax over the last three seasons, helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2018/19 and scoring 41 goals in 175 appearances overall.

        He had been scouted extensively by Manchester United, according to Sky Sports News, but will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be able to fit him into the same midfield as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba?

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        Image: Van de Beek was a key figure for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season

        A deeper role for Van de Beek?

        Van de Beek is best known for his attacking qualities. He has provided a regular stream of goals and assists from midfield during his time at Ajax. He also ranks highly in terms of recovering possession in the final third, further underlining his tendency to play high up the pitch.

        But with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba already in place at Manchester United, he may be needed in a deeper role at Old Trafford.

        Solskjaer favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, and while Van de Beek's record suggests he would be best suited to the No 10 role in that system, there is little prospect of Fernandes losing his place in the side.

        Van de Beek is therefore more likely to be paired with Pogba at the base of midfield as an alternative to Nemanja Matic.

        Read the full feature here...

        Image: Van de Beek could be used alongside Paul Pogba in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation

        Analysis: Why was Van de Beek so in demand?

        Sky Sports' Charlotte Marsh...

        Donny van de Beek was a man in demand, but why did he garner so much attention?

        With incredible versatility, Van de Beek can operate in a central or attacking role and has been described as the classic box-to-box midfielder.

        The 23-year-old has the ability to play anywhere across the middle - a trait that will only increase his value - and as well as being that vital link between defence and attack, he is more offensively minded than other central midfield players.

        Image: Van de Beek's Champions League passing radar shows his preference for sending his passes forward

        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.

        But he is also not afraid of sitting deep and doing the hard work when he needs to. According to, Van de Beek makes an average of two tackles per game in the Eredivisie - the fourth highest in the Ajax squad - and can help out in a more defensive role when needed.

        How does Donny van de Beek compare with Man Utd's current midfield options?
        Image: How does Van de Beek compare with Man Utd's current midfield options?

        Even fellow countryman and former Ajax assistant manager Dennis Bergkamp had him pegged as a special talent at a young age.

        In quotes carried by the Daily Mail, Frank de Boer, who Bergkamp worked under at the club, recalled: "Dennis started talking enthusiastically about a talent in his youth team. It was a boy who reminded Dennis of himself at that age. That was the signal for me to keep an eye on that guy. That was Donny."

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