When Manchester United completed the signing of Donny van de Beek in the summer, fans were excited for several reasons.
Not only did his arrival add quality and depth to an area that has been starved of both for years, but it added an assurance of technical quality that meant when things get tight United would be able to cope.
With Paul Pogba underperforming, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opted for the defensive security of Scott McTominay and Fred behind Bruno Fernandes. Now, though, Van de Beek looks set for a chance to stamp his authority on this team.
The Dutchman is in line to start for the first time in the Premier League this weekend against Southampton, with Pogba and McTominay ruled out through injury. The same circumstances saw Van de Beek start in the Champions League in midweek alongside Fred, as the Reds cruised to a 4-1 win at Old Trafford against Istanbul Basaksehir.
It was his fifth start in a Manchester United shirt, with United having won four out of five of those games, and he showed an added string to his bow by playing in a deeper role in a double pivot.
In an attacking sense Van de Beek kept things ticking in midfield, but it was his presence that saw United move the ball quicker in the final third with one and two touch passing. It's no coincidence that the Reds have an aggregate score of 16-3 in games he's started this season.
With his Ajax background, his inclusion in the side against Southampton should have been a given anyway. That is to say his passing ability and experience in and against a press - and his comfort on the ball - will be key as the Red Devils look to control the game and come away with a good result.
After starting in midweek and now likely to start this weekend, with Paris Saint-Germain coming up again next week, Van de Beek has a big chance to claim a starting role. He seems to have been able to form a good relationship with the attackers in the side, but now he needs to be able to focus on the defensive aspect of his play also - facets that perhaps weren't tested to the fullest against Basaksehir.
While United looked good going forward against Istanbul, defensively they were quite open. Fred's instincts are to press high and hunt for the ball while intercepting passes, while Van de Beek is better suited to being on the ball than off it. They will need to find a balance between them to make it work if they want to both secure their place long-term.
Van de Beek however has much more to prove, with his minutes in recent months limited for one reason or another. Pogba's position in the side as the deep creator is the one up for grabs, with Solskjaer adamant that he wants to get the best out of the Frenchman once again.
If that's the case, the 23 year-old Netherlands international is the closest in terms of skillset and should be able to step in for Manchester United to continue playing the way Solskjaer wants to.
A bad performance for Van de Beek could see him fall further down the pecking order, with Nemanja Matic waiting in the wings also. If the Serbian is deemed to be needed due to the defensive qualities he brings, that could mean that the former Ajax man must topple the phenom that is Fernandes from the number ten role.
Fans, ex-pros and pundits alike have all called for Van de Beek to get a chance in this Manchester United midfield. His chance is now and it's down to him and him only to take it.
Source : 90min