The versatile 23-year-old midfielder joined from Ajax earlier this month and is being tipped to take on a deeper role than usual at Old Trafford
Dimitar Berbatov believes that Donny van de Beek will usurp Nemanja Matic in Manchester United’s midfield and afford Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes even more freedom to attack.
Ever since the Van de Beek’s £35 million ($46m) transfer from Ajax was confirmed earlier this month, there has been constant speculation over where exactly the Netherlands international will fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
The 23-year-old is usually deployed in an advanced role in central midfield but ex-United striker Berbatov suspects that Van de Beek will play deeper, effectively taking the place of Matic in the starting line-up because of his better all-round game.
“I think he is a great signing, a very clever footballer who can read the play very well,” Betfair ambassador Berbatov told Goal.
“He is also very smart in the way he plays defensively. Indeed, I see him playing defensive midfield because of his intelligence and reading of the game.
“That way, it gives more freedom to Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes to get forward. They need to defend too, of course, but they will be more comfortable pushing up, knowing he is behind them.
“Van de Beek also got the ability to slice open the defence with a single pass, so, in my opinion, he really is a fantastic signing.”
United are hoping Van de Beek won’t be the only addition to their squad before the summer transfer window closes on October 5, given their longstanding interest in Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho.
The club has, thus, far been frustrated in its attempts to sign the England international but Berbatov feels that missing out on Sancho would be no bad thing.
The Bulgarian knows all about competition for places at United, having been famously left out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad for the 2011 Champions League final, and he feels that the arrival of another attacker in the coming weeks could unsettle first-choice forwards Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial.
“United have shown in the past they can play with four strikers and rotate,” Berbatov acknowledged. “But then you need to keep them happy, and that’s not an easy task, believe me!
“Rashford is a great player, while Greenwood has earned his right for more playing time this season, purely because every time Ole gave him a chance, he was scoring goals and supporting the team.
“And I’m a very big admirer of Martial. I see him every season getting better and better, even if it’s a slow margin. He has a good connection with Ole, who has found the right way to speak with him and manage him so that he can bring the best out of him on the pitch.
“That’s why when I get asked about another strike option for United, I say they already have Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, who are young and talented.
“People are saying they could do with someone experienced alongside them but sometimes now in the world of football youth doesn’t mean inexperience.
“You can be 23 and still have more experience than someone who is 35.
“Solskjaer has experience to pass on to them, too. He has been there, he knows what it’s all about, so the experience is already there.”