Donny van de Beek arrived at Manchester United from Ajax in the summer with a stellar reputation and the price tag to match.
But the £40million Dutch international, 23, has been restricted to just two starts – both in the League Cup – since his Old Trafford switch.
Thus far, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been unwilling to use him from the start in either the Premier League or Champions League.
As such, Van de Beek has seen less than 90 minutes of action in those competitions, across five appearances, and was an unused substitute in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea this weekend.
Scott McTominay and Fred both started in midfield, along with Bruno Fernandes, Dan James and Juan Mata against the Blues.
And after a passive, drab first half, when Solskjaer turned to his bench to change things, Van de Beek remained in the stands.
The continued omission of the club’s biggest signing of the summer has duly become a major talking point in the early part of the season.
Mirror Football takes a look at the latest situation surrounding Van de Beek and what’s next…
So what’s happened?
Simply, the £40million man can’t get in the team.
He’s started both League Cup outings, but watched the drab encounter with Chelsea from the bench.
At the end of September his advisor, Ajax legend Sjaak Swart, spoke out in Holland, declaring “I don’t like it at all” when asked about Van de Beek’s situation of being used merely as a backup.
His agent, Guido Albers, promptly responded and said Van de Beer had no problems and “is very happy at Manchester United”.
But now, a month down the line, Van de Beek still isn’t featuring regularly.
Speaking on commentary during the Chelsea draw, Gary Neville labelled Van de Beek’s absence and use so far as “a little bit of a mystery”.
“He doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of Ole’s plans in every game,” said Neville.
“It’s a bit of a mystery, that one. The more he doesn’t start, the more he doesn’t come on, well, a £40m-player, ordinarily, you get him into the team.
“He must be thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ at this moment in time.”
What did Patrice Evra say?
Patrice Evra, working as a pundit on Sky Sports on Saturday, was particularly outspoken on the latest overlooking of the midfielder.
The former France international, who wears his heart on his sleeve where United are concerned, said: “We’re talking about Van de Beek… why did we buy him?
“I have nothing against the kid, but why did we buy Van de Beek?
“He’s watching the game from the stands every game because we don’t need him. That’s the truth, but people will not say it loud.”
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the former Dutch international, was working alongside Evra and agreed with the Frenchman’s assertion.
“You are spot on. He’s an attacking midfielder, his strength is getting in the box and getting at the end of things and scoring goals or creating like (Bruno) Fernandes.
“If he has to compete with Fernandes he’s not going to play is he?”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s promise
Solskjaer insists that it won’t be long before Van de Beek is in the heart of the action and insists that he is very much part of his long-term plans.
“He’ll get his games, don’t worry about that,” he stated post-game.
“It’s easy to say who should be playing and more difficult to say who shouldn’t.”
But what he hasn’t mentioned is how he is going to fit him into a lineup where there doesn’t necessarily appear to be a place for him.
What role should Van de Beek be playing in?
In an ideal world, Van de Beek would prefer to play as the most advanced of three central midfielders, drifting between the lines and getting into the penalty area.
However, Bruno Fernandes has been and remains Solskjaer’s first-choice No.10 – and you can’t really argue with that given how impressive he’s been since his January arrival.
So the question is how do you shoehorn him into the lineup? There’s no doubt he’s versatile, and at Ajax he played all across midfield, whether sitting as a No.6, going box-to-box or even, occasionally, tucking in from the flanks.
Certainly, United don’t want him to do the latter. But given they didn’t sign Jadon Sancho, is there scope to play Fernandes from the right or left – as he has, albeit rarely, for Portugal, and having Van de Beek in central midfield with Pogba and someone holding?
Potentially, you could pair Van de Beek and Pogba with Fernandes ahead of them. But given the side’s defensive struggles this term, does that leave you far too open?
Reverting to a three-man defence, as they did in the win over PSG, also opens up other possibilities: you could potentially use Van de Beek and Fernandes as twin No.10s behind a sole striker in a 3-4-2-1, with Pogba in a central midfield duo, while not sacrificing either width or defensive stability.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have missed out on Jadon Sancho in the summer, but he still made some big moves in the transfer market with Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani all arriving.
But their start to the season has been a mixed bag, with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 thrashing by Spurs at one end of the scale, and a tremendous 2-1 win over PSG in Paris at the other.
The question now is whether they can find the right balance?
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So what next?
We wait and see how Solskjaer adapts things.
United are in the middle of a packed schedule following the Champions League’s return, with RB Leipzig at Old Trafford on Wednesday, and it’ll be interesting to see if Van de Beek starts against last season’s semi-finalists.
There will certainly be changes in midfield, with Pogba set to return to the starting lineup.
But will the Dutchman be alongside him? And if so, where will he line up?
Given they meet Arsenal next weekend too, before another European clash the following Wednesday in Istanbul, rotation is expected over the next 10 days or so.
If Van de Beek continues to miss out, the questions over his signing and his prospects will only mount.
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