Donny van de Beek couldn’t have endured a tougher first season at Manchester United.
Fears that the Ajax midfielder’s arrival last summer was overkill appear to have been realised in a 2020/21 campaign that has seen Ole Gunner Solskjaer limit him to just two Premier League starts.
As a result, there are very substantiated arguments that Van de Beek is one of the club’s worst signings of the modern era, but almost none of them are founded on the player’s performances.
Van de Beek’s tough year
Besides, the Van de Beek signing is only so terrible because it has made little to no sense as opposed to having anything to do with the Dutchman having played in any way poorly.
And every time that Van de Beek has taken to the pitch in the famous red jersey, which has all-too-often been from the bench, he has looked more than capable at the Premier League standard.
As a result, despite the stiff competition from Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, it’s nothing short of bewildering that Van de Beek has only been afforded 325 minutes of action in England’s top-flight.
Man Utd 2-1 Brighton
And only eight of those precious minutes came during United’s 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday evening.
However, Van de Beek was on the pitch when the Red Devils pulled three points out of the fire having entered the final moments at 1-1 after goals from Danny Welbeck and Marcus Rashford.
Now, when you look back at United’s winner, which was converted by Mason Greenwood, there might not appear to be an obvious contribution from Van de Beek.
Van de Beek’s crucial role vs Brighton
In fact, according to SofaScore, the former Ajax playmaker didn’t even touch the ball during his cameo at Old Trafford.
But make no mistake that Van de Beek still made his impact felt because as Twitter user @utdarena has so fascinatingly highlighted, the 23-year-old’s contribution to United’s winner was invaluable.
‘How is that even possible with zero touches?’ I hear you ask. Well, fear not, because the United fan’s Twitter thread does a fantastic job at explaining and you can check it out in full down below:
The power of movement, ladies and gentlemen.
Van de Beek’s superb movement
Perhaps it’s bread and butter for a world-class midfielder, I wouldn’t like to say, but the fact of the matter is that Van de Beek’s footballing brain helped – if not ensured – United went onto win.
Besides, it’s the micro details of where and how the Brighton back-line is pulled apart that ultimately led to the macro consequences of Greenwood being afforded so much to space to find the net.
And while there might have been some luck along the way, there’s no denying that Van de Beek knew what he was up to on the whole and we can only hope that Solskjaer didn’t miss it.