How will Donny van de Beek fit into Manchester United's midfield? 3 weeks ago

How will Donny van de Beek fit into Manchester United's midfield?

In a team that already boasts Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, how does another attacking midfielder fit in?

The imminent signing of Donny van de Beek at Manchester United has sparked both celebration and intrigue among the club's fans. Celebration at the arrival of a young, technically gifted, goal-scoring midfielder and intrigue at how that type of player fits into a team that already has Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. How will they play together?

In short, they probably won't. They won't start together anyway. There isn't space for all three of them to play in the same team without pushing one out to the wing or completely sacrificing any sort of defensive thinking in midfield. But they will all play an important role.

Van de Beek joins as a different option, neither the prime creator in the team (Bruno) or the player tasked with bringing the ball forward from deep (Pogba). He is a goalscoring attacking midfielder more in the mould of Frank Lampard or a young Paul Scholes than either of his new colleagues.

It is a welcome selection headache for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has too often relied on the same starting XI in recent months and has shown great reluctance to make any changes until the last few minutes of a game, for fresh legs more than anything, due to the dearth of quality on his bench.

Van de Beek joins as a significant upgrade on Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, who have contributed very little on the pitch over the past year. His ability to play both as a number 8 and as a number 10 means the Dutchman can fill in for both Pogba and Fernandes should they need a rest - which they will given the hectic schedule of the 2020/21 season.

But why would he join if he is only going to be a rotation option given the other offers he had on the table?

There is of course every chance Paul Pogba finally leaves United next summer, when Real Madrid have found the cash to make the transfer work. That would pave the way for van de Beek to nail down his place in United's first XI for the long term, and at the tender age of 23, he can afford to bide his time.

There is a chance that Pogba reverts to the role he often plays for France, as the link-man midfielder and one that sits back to control the tempo of the game, but United do look set to retain Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay.

Even if Pogba stays, clubs the size of Manchester United have to look beyond the first XI, as shown by the way they tailed off in their least few matches in August. You look at the benches of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and there are plenty of players who can come on, offer something different, and if they make a difference, will be rewarded with more starts because they have the quality.

That's what van de Beek has been brought in to do: raise the standard of internal competition for places, score goals from midfield, and give the manager a headache instead of allowing him to revert to the same tried and tested line-up.

Next steps for United are trying to get that Jadon Sancho deal over the line, and shoring up the defence.