Paul Pogba’s form has turned for the better, and Bruno Fernandes is the first name on the team list, which means that there is no place for the Dutchman
As the fourth officer’s plaque rose in Goodison Park on Wednesday night, number 34 flashed. Donny van de Beek’s time is up.
The Dutchman had an average performance and certainly had nothing to write about at home. He didn’t give United fans anything to get excited about and barely proved a point.
He then played on the left wing.
A penny for the thoughts of the 23-year-old, who was encouraged by his manager before the start of this quarter-final of the Carabao Cup to show why he deserved his place in the regular starting XI.
“It’s a big night for all of us,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. “They want a chance to apply, and we want to see Donny play as well as we know and can.”
He has seen his talent since arriving from Ajax in August in a £ 40m ($ 53m) transfer. This was only his eighth start.
In some quarters he was considered a luxury signing and did little in Goodison to change that perception as United won 2-0 and advanced to the semi-finals, where they will play against rivals Manchester City again.
It’s not that his portrayal was bad; there were nice touches as he looked to build the show and create space for those around him. There were moments when he looked like he could be on goal, only that his teammates didn’t pick his series.
While there was nothing particularly bad about its display, it wasn’t a performance that would live on in memory for long. For a player struggling in a crowded pool to get started, he hasn’t done enough.
Solskjaer was pleased with the contribution of the Dutch international, despite his early affection, and suggested that he could play him in that role forward again.
“He’s one of those smart players who can move into space [and] find space, just like Bruno [Fernandes]”Solskjaer said.
“The two of them, we wanted to get in between the rows, to get on the ball, and he connected the game very well for us and I thought he did really well.”
Although Solskjaer was pleased with the results, Van de Beek’s case to start more regularly is not helped by the form of midfielders around him.
Scott McTominay, who missed this game due to injury, was extremely present in the Premier League win against Leeds over the weekend. Fred continues to improve and rested keeping in mind Saturday’s important clash against Leicester, and Fernandes is one of the first names on the team list.
The Portuguese, despite a crowded ceremonial schedule, was one of only two players to retain his place after the win against Leeds, while Solskjaer withdrew changes for the Everton game.
The biggest obstacle for more time for Van de Beek, in a position that is perhaps more favorable, is the form of Paul Pogba. The Frenchman admitted that his diagnosis of Covid-19 affected his performance at the beginning of the season, but he has increased the level since the last international break.
His quality was shown again because together with Nemanja Matić he played a deeper role in the midfield. He gained possession eight times, the common majority of all on the side, and carried out three interceptions. But there were also some characteristic smart efforts.
While United dominated the first 30 minutes, with a series of chances from which he could have killed the game early, he deftly hit his head into the area to place Van de Beek. His shot was blocked and instead he went to the corner.
Solskjaer knows he has more quality than World Cup winners.
“Paul is getting more and more ready,” he said. “It’s the biggest thing with Paul, [his] last year and a half [has been] damaged by injury and Covid.
“I am very pleased with his performance and contribution to the team. The game is getting better and better and will continue to improve. ”
Solskjaer said this week that the possibility of a trophy could encourage players to stay at the club, but it will take much more than a potential Carabao Cup winner’s medal to make Pogba change his mind.
Despite his agent’s comments a few weeks ago, however, he showed speed and commitment to make a difference for this team.
While Van de Beek struggled to seize his opportunity, Edinson Cavani, who returned from injury, did not. The striker changed the lines in the first half, but it was his moment of quality that sealed the equalizer in the 88th minute.
He touched, shifted his legs, and headed past Robin Olsen to establish a showdown with City at Old Trafford next month.
Those are four semifinals for Solskjaer in his two years at the helm. It could be an impressive sum, but this time it has to go a step further and show that they are really making progress by securing that first last place.