This international break was meant to be a period that would offer Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some respite, perhaps even a chance for him to forget about the severe pressure he’s under right now.
However, a little more than 48 hours after the final whistle blew on United’s dismal, forgettable 2-0 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford, United and Solskjaer were dealt another blow, with midfielder Paul Pogba picking up a thigh injury during France’s first training session of the international break.
Pogba was forced to pull out of the France squad, and now reportedly faces up to 10 weeks on the sidelines — meaning he may never play for United again if another club comes calling for his services in January, amid his contract situation.
Although the Frenchman blows hot and cold, when he’s at the top of his game he does offer United something different and something that the opposition struggle to contain.
But United cannot dwell on the situation. As sorry as they may feel for themselves already, they cannot use Pogba’s injury as another excuse for not improving their performance levels and results.
As with anything in life, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. At least you would think so, anyway.
Pogba’s absence presents a golden opportunity for Donny van de Beek, you would think, to finally be awarded a first team chance and show Solskjaer what he has been missing out on. The Dutchman, who joined United from Ajax in September last year, has been restricted to just 41 appearances in all competitions in a red shirt. He’s started just two games in all competitions this season, one of them in the Carabao Cup.
To say life has been tough for the 24-year-old in Manchester is an understatement.
However, despite his lack of opportunities, the United supporters remain fully in support of Van de Beek and clearly feel sorry for him.
For the first time, during the defeat to City, United’s match-going supporters showed their displeasure towards Solskjaer by chanting for Van de Beek to come off the bench. That was enough to prove just how they feel about the situation. They want to see the Dutchman granted a chance.
With Pogba facing a spell on the sidelines, this is surely the moment.
But after a 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool almost three weeks ago, you would have thought he’d have had the chance to come in against Tottenham Hotspur six days later and prove his worth. Instead, the former Ajax man was spotted teeing the balls up for United’s starters to have some practice shots at goal.
Van de Beek, a £40million signing, was stood there carrying out a role that a member of Solskjaer’s coaching staff ought to have been doing.
With that said, nothing should be ruled out as far as Van de Beek’s United career is concerned.
Yet Pogba’s absence is his chance to lay down a marker and stake a claim for a regular starting berth if presented with an opportunity. He may not be as flamboyant and as strong and powerful as Pogba, but he promises to be tidy in possession and offer United a fresh outlet going forward.
He played as a box-to-box midfielder in pre-season in a 4-3-3 system and if Solskjaer was to ditch the 3-5-2 approach and revisit a 4-3-3, it could suit the Dutchman down to the ground.
But if he cannot force his way into Solskjaer’s plans when United are in desperate need of trying something new and Pogba is sidelined, he probably never will.
This has to be seen as Van de Beek’s last chance saloon. If his chance doesn’t come this time around, United have to move him on in January, purely for the sake of his career.
It is pointless them retaining the services of a player they have no intention of awarding a chance to, even when the pathway is so obliviously clear for him to take the chance he craves and deserves.
United should be selling Van de Beek in January to save his career and secure some funds for future signings. Their justification to do that should be escalated further if Pogba’s absence doesn’t provide him with a chance.
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