Gary Neville has backed Donny van de Beek to walk straight into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, with Paul Pogba potentially playing in a deeper midfield role to accommodate for Manchester United’s new signing.
Van de Beek became the Red Devils’ first signing of the summer on Wednesday after the Premier League giants wrapped up a £40million agreement with Ajax for the 23-year-old Netherlands international.
The Dutchman’s arrival has raised questions over how United’s midfield will look next season considering the embarrassment of riches Solskjaer has in that position, with Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred already battling for places.
But Neville is confident his former team-mate will start Van de Beek for United’s opening match of the Premier League campaign, when Crystal Palace travel to Old Trafford on September 19.
Asked whether Van de Beek will be used as an impact sub at first, the ex-United right-back told Stadium Astro: ‘No, I think he will start.
‘If you look at that area of midfield at United, it does look like they’ve got attacking midfield players in abundance with Pogba, Fernandes and Van de Beek now.
‘But we look at the midfield make-up of teams nowadays, we’re not seeing teams play with too many defensive midfield players.
‘It used to be that you would have defensive midfield players like Claude Makelele or Jordan Henderson or Fabinho at Liverpool – it looks like Manchester United will play Pogba a little bit deeper or maybe even a different system because I’m sure he [Van de Beek] will start.’
On whether Pogba has the discipline to play in that deeper role, Neville replied: ‘Not really!
‘But if you look at modern midfields now, there is less structure in the teams, less organisation, more fluidity and I think that’s the way that Manchester United are now with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘I think he wants players who interchange and move around and they will be very difficult to play against.’
He added: ‘United need a new centre forward. I would love Lionel Messi to come, but I think he is more likely to go to Manchester City.
‘[If he does come to the Premier League] it will be the biggest story in Premier League history, and I cannot overstate it.
‘The idea of Messi being in Manchester will be huge for the country and the league.
‘It will bring in the most media attention and scrutiny to the league. ‘It will be simply fascinating as people will be interested to see how he will play in a different league and environment.’