You can imagine the 24-year-old, who has always come out well on and off the football pitch, not leaving a sock out of place in the locker room. He’s also groomed as a football player – but to the extent that at United so far he has seemed risk averse.
Van de Beek is a good player, let’s be clear about that.
His control, first touch and passing range are some of the best in the United squad, as he appears to be fit like a fiddle and able to maintain a work ethic that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes.
But the problem for the Dutchman in a tough first campaign at Old Trafford has been his preferred style, which seems so at odds with the two players he’s competing for a place with – Bruno Fernandes and Pogba himself.
Obviously Solskjaer doesn’t really see Van de Beek as a midfielder to challenge Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic. But Pogba and Fernandes are difficult to dominate in the more attacking areas.
The pair can be both exhilarating and frustrating – a microcosm of that seen in the recent chaotic 4-2 loss to Liverpool – but the fact remains that they are able to unlock defenses and win games in the blink of an eye. ‘eye. They suit United’s quick and direct approach to attacking. They have the United hallmark.
Van de Beek, so far, hasn’t been able to do much of that for United. He’s the antithesis of Pogba player named as the messiest in the locker room, Eric Bailly (although the Ivorian may be too far the other way around in terms of unpredictability and unreliability).
If United expected to pay Ajax £ 35million last summer for the longtime heir to Pogba in the midfield, they will have been disappointed so far. Moreover, Pogba’s importance to the team has actually increased this season and Van de Beek has not started.
Van de Beek may still gain confidence as his United career progresses, but some (especially in his home country) have already decided that enough is enough. There have been calls among the Illuminati in Dutch football to bring Van de Beek back to Amsterdam.
But taking bets is a learned skill and there is no doubt that Solskjaer still believes Van de Beek can fill Pogba’s skin, if the Frenchman is due to leave this summer or next – when his contract expires. . Another year of on-the-job learning alongside Pogba and Fernandes can’t be a bad thing for Van de Beek, even though he will be 25 by next summer and should be in his prime.
United viewed Jack Grealish as the man who could come in and ‘replace’ Pogba before the latter left, but they ended up with Van de Beek.
The Ajax graduate seemed a reasonable option at half the price Grealish asked, but you can’t imagine the Aston Villa captain going through such a sweet and disappointing campaign after joining United.
Van de Beek’s army of fans will rightly proclaim that he deserves more minutes this season, and three Premier League starts are hardly enough for him to show his talents. Maybe his time will come soon.
Solskjaer, certainly, called for patience and referenced Fred and Victor Lindelof like others who had started slowly at Old Trafford following major transfers, before succeeding.
But for now, United are no closer to who, if any, can be Pogba’s heir in their midfield. The possibility remains that Pogba will extend his contract, or he could leave again this summer.
If Van de Beek is to step into Pogba’s shoes next season, he will have come a long way from his current position.