Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident Donny van de Beek will play a “big, big part this year” despite a restricted role since his pre-season arrival at Old Trafford.
The 23-year-old midfielder, who joined from Dutch giants Ajax for an initial 39-million-euro (£34.1 million) fee, has started more matches for the Netherlands than United since his transfer, making just five appearances off the bench as well as two starts in the League Cup.
But Solskjaer, himself a former United striker, said Tuesday that Van de Beek would become more involved as the season went on.
“When players come into a new league, a new team, it’s always going to be a time of (transition),” Solskjaer said Tuesday during his pre-match press conference ahead of a Champions League group game at home to Germany’s RB Leipzig. “When Donny has played, he’s played really well.”
United have failed to win any of their opening three home Premier League matches this season but a 4-1 victory at Newcastle followed by an impressive 2-1 away win against Paris Saint-Germain in a European opener eased the pressure on Norwegian boss Solskjaer.
A goalless draw against Chelsea last weekend meant United, now in a lowly 15th place in the Premier League, had still to win a home league match this season.
Solskjaer reckoned talk about Van de Beek’s relative lack of game time was just another chance for pundits to criticise United.
“At the moment, I realise the topic is Donny van de Beek and it’s nice for some players or commentators to have a little go,” he said.
“I know that you (the media) are short for time when you’re on telly (television) and you have to put your points across very quickly, but you have to know that you don’t have to start the first three games to be a very important player in the squad.”
Solskjaer, renowned for his impact as a United substitute, notably when he came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final, added: “I would be disappointed if some of my team-mates said that I wasn’t important at Man United because I didn’t start many games, so Donny’s going to be very, very important for us, don’t worry about that.”
Wednesday’s match at Old Trafford sees United and Bundesliga leaders Leipzig meet for the first time, with both clubs having won their Group H openers.
“In the group stage we have four teams and you would think that 10 points would get you through, so to get to 10 points as quickly as we can is our aim and our focus now is on getting three points tomorrow night,” said Solskjaer.
Anthony Martial, who is serving a three-match domestic ban, is again available for European action. The France forward featured against PSG last week.