Donny van de Beek has looked like a prime candidate for a January move this season, having struggled for minutes at Manchester United.
The Dutch midfielder started just twice under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and his goal in the Norwegian’s final game in charge against Watford represented the first and only time he has found the net since scoring on his United debut in 2020.
Van de Beek was brought back into the XI during the week, playing more than an hour as United saw off Villarreal to make sure of top spot in their Champions League group.
Michael Carrick was in caretaker charge for that game, as he will be this weekend for the trip to Chelsea, and Carrick has dropped a hint about a new role which the former Ajax man could play in the coming weeks and months.
Van de Beek’s versatility has perhaps counted against him, as United have moved between different formations this season.
He has predominantly featured in the centre of midfield, having taken the place of Bruno Fernandes in Spain on Wednesday but also playing deeper in September’s defeat against Young Boys.
However, Carrick has suggested a third option could be on the cards, one we haven’t seen since the 24-year-old’s days in Amsterdam.
“We’ve got ideas where we think Donny’s most suited but he’s so flexible and adaptable, with two or three positions,” Carrick said in a press conference ahead of the Chelsea game.
“He even played as a false nine for Ajax in the Champions League when they ended up getting beaten by Tottenham.
“We’ve got ideas for him but being flexible is a strength and a credit to what he can bring to the team.”
While Van de Beek may have impressed in a more advanced role for Ajax, he will face more competition in that area as a United player.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been a near-permanent fixture so far this season, with Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial among the other options as a central striker; there remains a school of thought however that Ronaldo still prefers starting from the left and working inside, potentially opening up a false nine avenue at Old Trafford.
Van de Beek’s future is one of the transfer decisions expected to be put on hold as United prepare for life under incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick.
French forward Martial is another whose days looked to be numbered before the managerial change, but the coming weeks are likely to determined whether either has a future at Old Trafford.
Rangnick has reached a verbal agreement with the club, though his official start has been delayed., and is expected to retain a consultancy role after taking charge of the first team for the remainder of this season.