Arsenal legend Paul Merson has described Manchester United’s £40 million move for Donny van de Beek as a ‘panic buy’ and says the club should instead be focussing their efforts on signing a central defender.
Van de Beek became Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing of the summer on Wednesday after United reached an agreement with Ajax for the 23-year-old midfielder, beating the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid to his signature.
The Dutchman’s arrival means Solskjaer now has a wealth of options to choose from in the middle of the park, with Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay already battling for places ahead of the new campaign.
And while Van de Beek has emerged as one of Europe’s most exciting midfield players over the last two seasons, Merson has questioned United’s need for the Netherlands international in their current squad.
‘I don’t get it. They just spent £40m on a position where they are already strong and how does he play with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes?
‘You have to have someone who can play the holding role.
‘That signing looked to me like: “Oh we haven’t bought anyone yet, let’s go and buy someone, who can we get?”
‘When you look at their midfield, Fred was improving, and they’ve got Scott McTominay. Now they won’t get a game.
‘And they just gave Nemanja Matic a new contract. Would they have done that if they knew they were getting Van de Beek?
‘It makes no sense to me. Who is making these decisions?
‘It’s like them going for Jadon Sancho. If they sign Sancho, Mason Greenwood doesn’t play. For me they need another centre back.’
Manchester United legend Gary Neville believes Pogba will likely drop back into a deeper midfield role to accommodate for the club’s new signing.
Asked whether Van de Beek will at first be used as an impact substitute, Neville 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.’
‘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.’