Just when Donny van de Beek had hoped that he might have found a turning point, he’s back in the cul-de-sac.
Manchester United’s rarely seen £40million man was the last goalscorer of the fitful Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reign, with even that goal relegated to a footnote in the seismic 4-1 defeat to Watford that heralded the end of the Norwegian.
Van de Beek will surely go down as one of Solskjaer’s biggest mistakes despite the amount of competition that there is for that title, with the puzzling nature of his United career still posing more questions than answers.
It isn’t so much about why Solskjaer didn’t pick Van de Beek, but why United even signed him at all.
Was it because they thought Paul Pogba was leaving?
Or did they simply like what they saw during those memorable shifts for Ajax and thought they simply had to have some of that midfield energy, regardless of what else it meant for the style and pattern of play, if there was one under Solskjaer?
It remains a mystery, but now a new blow has been delivered to the 24-year-old at a time when he would have hoped that the tide was turning with the removal of the Norwegian.
Because he’s being ignored by Ralf Rangnick as well.
As he heads into the Premier League’s winter break Van de Beek has only tasted 19 minutes of action in 2022, making the very need for a break somewhat questionable.
With just one of those 19 minutes coming in the Premier League, the midfielder has looked on as Rangnick has looked to mould a side that doesn’t really seem to have a place for him anywhere.
In the German’s 4-2-2-2 it is difficult to confidently say that Van de Beek falls into either the first two or the second, with Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic trusted in those more defensive positions and then the more explosive attackers playing ahead.
Bruno Fernandes is almost always going to be one of those, and then it is in United’s best interests – and ultimately Rangnick’s, if he wants to impress before moving upstairs – to get Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and latterly Anthony Elanga on the pitch whenever he can.
Van de Beek falls between those two stools, and would appear to be having less and less chance of game-time whatever Rangnick does, even if he modifies his formation slightly.
The Dutchman has now been linked with January loan moves to both Crystal Palace and Valencia, and while the truth behind those potential deals waits to emerge in the coming days, he would surely be best advised just to get out of Old Trafford now, and however he can manage it.
Footballers have short careers, and right now he’s wasting his.