Erik ten Hag has been confirmed as Manchester United's new manager, and it's hard to see anyone benefitting more than Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek.
It was under Ten Hag at Ajax that Van de Beek rose to international acclaim. He made the midfielder a permanent starter as soon as he arrived at Ajax in 2017 and continued to reap the rewards as Van de Beek was a reliable source of both goals and assists for years to come.
Van de Beek's elite form nearly earned him a move to Real Madrid in 2019, before Manchester United came calling 12 months later to hand the Dutchman the £40m move to Europe that every fan agreed was deserved.
Since then, however, things have gone horribly for Van de Beek. He has 50 United appearances to his name, but just four of those are Premier League starts, and the Dutchman eventually jumped ship on loan to Everton in January in a desperate attempt to reignite his career.
He's set to return to Old Trafford in the summer, where he'll be joined by Ten Hag. So, what does the future have in store for Van de Beek?
Van de Beek's playing time under Ten Hag
Van de Beek's breakthrough to the Ajax senior team actually came before Ten Hag arrived. The young midfielder was a squad player under previous manager Peter Bosz, who handed Van de Beek 19 Eredivisie appearances in 2016/17. However, just four were starts.
Marcel Keizer replaced Bosz that summer and made Van de Beek a permanent starter, and he would retain that role when Ten Hag found himself in the dugout in December 2017. He scored in Ten Hag's first game and would play all but 34 minutes of the remaining 18 games of the campaign.
Pushed into a more advanced role in 2018/19, Van de Beek racked up nine goals and ten assists in 34 appearances, before registering eight and six in the Covid-shortened 2019/20 - after which United moved to sign him.
“He is an absolute key player for us, a very modern midfielder with lots of depth in his play. It’s clear that we will miss him a lot once he’s gone," Ten Hag said of Van de Beek's departure.
Van de Beek's best position under Ten Hag
Despite a reputation for being an attacking midfielder, Van de Beek played most of his minutes in a traditional central midfield role.
Ten Hag repeatedly spoke of Van de Beek's all-round ability and was never afraid to play the Dutchman in a 'double-six' role, fielding him alongside another player at the base of Ajax's midfield.
Most of Van de Beek's goals did come from the central midfield role, but his best form came when he was given more freedom to move forward in a role behind false-nine striker Dusan Tadic, who would drag defenders out of the way and create space for Van de Beek to get at goal.
How Ten Hag reacted to Van de Beek's United struggles
Van de Beek's difficulties in Manchester came as a surprise to most, but to Ten Hag, it was stunning.
"I find it hard to understand. It's a mortal sin," he told De Volkskrant. "If you don't get a chance, your development will stall as well. Every now and then, you need encouragement."
Was it always perfect for Van de Beek under Ten Hag?
There's no denying that Van de Beek loved life under Ten Hag, but there was a time in which life wasn't so rosy.
The start of the 2018/19 season saw Van de Beek struggle for a starting role, so much so that his agent came out and admitted he'd be looking to get the midfielder out of Ajax in the near future if Ten Hag didn't start playing him.
Van de Beek himself even admitted to being frustrated by Ten Hag's team selection but vowed to win him over on the pitch. He did exactly that, racking up the goals and assists and proving to his manager that he needed to be on the pitch.
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