Donny van de Beek got the chance to start for Manchester United in the last pre-season game through Everton.

It was only his second pre-season appearance, the game against Preston was canceled. He was previously a substitute in the game against Brentford – and captain of the team.

With the possibility of starting against Everton, Van de Beek played like a player who wasn’t in the mood to give up his seat. He spent too much time watching, this was his chance to show what he can do.

The United trio, which began as part of a three-man midfield along with Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes, looked well balanced.

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images)

We have always argued that the key to Van de Beek’s success is finding a way for him to play alongside Fernandes rather than as a replacement he relies on to create opportunities.

Instead, Van de Beek can play to Fernandes’ strengths by picking him out in dangerous areas and also becoming a threat in the opponent’s penalty area as Fernandes delivers the passes. For that to work United needs a good defensive midfielder and Nemanja Matic was perfectly adequate that day.

One of Van de Beek’s qualities in the deeper role he played against Everton is his willingness to pass the ball forward.

Van de Beek has a natural tendency to play forward and move the ball quickly. Scott McTominay is not that skilled at this.

Opportunity opens up

Van de Beek has a good opportunity to start the season opener against Leeds on Saturday. His performance against Everton underscored his credentials.

One of the tests Van de Beek passed was his fitness. Other players don’t look that advanced.

Paul Pogba and Fred later returned and are lagging behind in building their fitness. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed after the game that Scott McTominay had a minor injury. James Garner is an option, but not one that Solskjaer signed up to as a starter last season – he’s only started one in four games.

Leeds will be a tough test for United next week but Van de Beek is well suited. His technical quality makes him more resistant to pressure opponents than other players, and he proved that at the beginning of last season in the 5-0 win against RB Leipzig.

It’s also worth noting that Leeds lost 4-0 to Van de Beek’s former Ajax side in the pre-season last week. Van de Beek’s possession quality could cause them the same problems.

(Photo by Matthew Peters / Manchester United via Getty Images)

United appear to have made a decision with Van de Beek that he is more of an alternative to Fred, McTominay and Paul Pogba than an alternative to Bruno Fernandes. That could develop further, but at the moment the Dutchman could play in the lower midfield like last game day at Wolves.

Van de Beek is facing a big season as he looks to grow into his role at United. He passed his exam over the weekend and looks like he was the big winner from the last warm-up. Expect him to join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting line-up next Saturday.

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