Manchester United - The Donny van de Beek issue
Van de Beek against West Ham in the FA Cup | Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Since joining Manchester United for a £40 million fee at the start of the season, Donny van de Beek's season has been nothing more than discouraging. The Dutchman has yet to stake a claim at Old Trafford

After scoring on his debut against Crystal Palace, the midfielder has not found the back of the net and has provided just one assist - quite a stark difference from the output which Bruno Fernandes puts out on a consistent basis for The Reds.

This article will be looking at Manchester United's Donny van de Beek issue and how they can look to try and solve it. 

Van de Beek is not Bruno Fernandes

Yes, that is an obvious statement, but it does not seem to be on the pitch, as the expectations seem to be that the Dutchman will be the same chance-creating monster that his Portuguese counterpart has been since his introduction to English football. 

However this is not the type of player that van de Beek is, and it should not be expected of him to be playing constant passes looking to unlock a defence - rather he is the 'pass and move' mould which Ajax are known to develop so well, he is the guy that is looking to receive the ball in the space that he just ran into.

According to FBRef, in the last year, he has received an average of 6.31 progressive passes per 90. This is in the top three per cent of midfielders in the top five leagues.

Van de Beek is then one of the smartest players around the penalty area, constantly scanning his surroundings to then be able to find a teammate with a quick pass. His assist in the EFL Cup against Brighton is the perfect example of this at work. 

As United are attacking, the Dutchman finds a good space in the middle of four Brighton players. Fred plays the ball into him.

Van de Beek then instinctively flicks the ball to his teammate, Juan Mata, who can then slot the ball in the back of the net. 

As you can see though, the former-Ajax man didn't unlock the defence himself, he needed someone (Fred) to find a pass to him after making a good run into the pocket of space. 

This is ultimately why it seems that Manchester United's levels drop when the Dutchman plays, because his Portuguese counterpart is so important to how the Reds play, and he does not offer the same qualities. 

In his 11 starts for the club this season, van de Beek has started just four matches alongside Fernandes - two of those have been against Istanbul Basaksehir FK where the Dutchman has been apart of the double pivot.

It would be positive to see both Fernandes and van de Beek start matches together, as Fernandes is the kind of player that can play the passes that van de Beek needs to thrive - Paul Pogba is another, but again, he has started just four times alongside United's £40 million signing.

United need a creator 

However, as they both operate in the same position, van de Beek and Fernandes cannot always start together, as shown this season. What United need, is another creator in their line-up, who can take some of the load that the ever-impressive Portuguese leaves behind when he's not on the pitch.

The frontline for The Red Devils is filled with attacking players focused on scoring. Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani all fit this mould. 

Then with Scott McTominay and Fred as the usual pivot partnership, it is no wonder that van de Beek is not being found - there are no real creators, bar the in-form Luke Shaw

Jadon Sancho has been on the radar of the club for a while now and he would be a perfect player to bring in and he'd also help take some of the creative load, meaning that van de Beek could focus on his area of expertise - receiving the ball in dangerous areas and playing quick passes around the opposition box.

It seems that 18-year-old Amad also fits the style of being a creator first, but it is unlikely that he is the short-term solution to spreading the creative load - but rather the long term solution. 

Let's remember: It is only his first season

In what has been a strange year for everybody in the country, it is no surprise that many players who made moves to the country in the summer, such as Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Thiago, have had difficult opening campaigns in the league, van de Beek is no different. 

Joao Cancelo, arguably the best full-back in the league this season, also struggled for minutes in his debut campaign last season with Manchester City, starting just 13 league games through the season. Fred is another who has shown that a player can soldier through a poor first season at a club. 

Donny van de Beek has joined Manchester United at a strange time, and when he has played, he has not been able to show his talents enough. 

The Dutchman must adapt to the quick attacking football that United want to play, but also must be given the opportunity to maximise his own game, and this means that United need other creators than Fernandes, because van de Beek is not the same player as Fernandes.