Erik ten Hag has backed Donny van de Beek to turn his Manchester United career around by playing in a more advanced role because he ‘smells’ opportunities around goal.
Van de Beek has struggled since leaving Ajax – where he was a key part of Ten Hag’s title-winning team – for United in a £40million deal two years ago.
The 25-year-old Dutchman spent the second half of last season on loan at Everton and could easily have left Old Trafford this summer had Ten Hag not taken over as manager.
Donny van de Beek will be hoping for more opportunities at Manchester United next season
Erik ten Hag, who coached Van de Beek at Ajax, has hinted he could play attacking midfield
But Van de Beek now has a second chance and Turnkey Sportsbook Software Ten Hag believes he can take it if he plays further forward. One of the midfielder’s biggest problems so far has been nailing down a recognised role in the team.
‘Donny van de Beek’s best position is his capabilities in the box of opponent,’ said Ten Hag after United touched down in Australia for games against Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace.
‘Playing short behind a striker, he has a really good smell for being in the right position.
‘I think Manchester United has a huge potential, and really good players. We have experienced players, but also a lot of young guys, young boys, who have a lot of potential. Now it’s to get the potential out and therefore we have to work really hard.’
United won their first game on tour 4-0 against Liverpool in Bangkok with Jadon Sancho particularly impressive on the left, scoring the opening goal. However, Ten Hag wants to see his team threaten across the pitch.
Van de Beek thrived under Ten Hag at Ajax and will hope to gain lift off in his United career
‘I was really happy to see we have a good left side,’ he added. ‘But we always have a threat on the right, as we did against Liverpool. That was good to see.
‘You want to have weapons. When it is only on one side, it is predictable. We want to develop over two sides. It has to be on the right and the middle. We have to come from everywhere.’
Jurgen Klopp claimed that Liverpool struggled with United’s man-marking system in Bangkok, but Ten Hag believes there is much more to the philosophy he wants to develop at United.
‘I wouldn’t say that we played man-marking,’ he countered. ‘On a certain moment we played man-marking and we want to press.
‘We want to press all day, by that I mean proactive football. Sometimes we can we do that high, but if not possible then we have to read it as a team and we drop lower. But, still, we want to press, that has to be the intention all day.
Bruno Fernandes could face competition from Van de Beek for the attacking midfield role
‘I want in every part of the of the team I want proactivity. That’s the most important, that players take initiative – on the ball and off the ball, offence and defence.’
Ten Hag confirmed that captain Harry Maguire will play at least half of Friday’s match against Melbourne Victory at the MCG after missing the Liverpool game with a tight hamstring.
He denied that Eric Bailly’s impressive performance as a second-half substitute against Liverpool has given him a dilemma, with the Ivorian set to fall further down the pecking order of centre-backs if United sign Lisandro Martinez from Ajax.
‘Eric Bailly’s performance doesn’t give me a headache,’ he said. ‘I am happy. There are a lot of games this season and also a World Cup.
‘We need a full squad with a lot of competition between the players. We have to push ourselves on to a higher level.’