Van de Beek’s potential replacement is ready to play for Manchester United

Ajax's Donny van de Beek and coach Erik ten Hag during training.

REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters

Erik ten Hag’s arrival at Manchester United didn’t change Donny van de Beek’s fortunes at the club, but the Dutch coach could have another playmaker ready to challenge Bruno Fernandes next season.

Ten Hag and Van de Beek enjoyed a successful spell together in Amsterdam. As such, the Netherlands international was expected to find his old form under the tutelage of the former Ajax boss at United.

But things didn’t pan out that way, with the 25-year-old only managing four starts under Ten Hag before suffering a knee injury against Bournemouth in January that forced him to miss the rest of the 2022/23 campaign.

Van de Beek’s absence means Fernandes is the only No 10 Ten Hag can rely on for the remainder of the season. Christian Eriksen can also play behind the striker, but he also faces a lengthy period on the sidelines, and even when he’s available, he plays in a midfield pivot.

Further, even before his injury, Van de Beek hardly posed any kind of challenge to Fernandes.

Regardless, considering Hannibal Mejbri’s rise at Birmingham City, United could have two reliable playmakers during the 2023/24 season.

With five assists, one goal, and several encouraging performances in the Championship, Mejbri has shown he’s ready to replace Van de Beek at United.

On Friday, the 20-year-old’s quick thinking led to Birmingham’s opener, as he caught West Brom goalkeeper David Button out of position and bent the ball around the wall to rattle the net from distance. The Tunisian creative midfielder was also involved in Krystian Bielik’s goal that doubled his side’s lead in the West Midlands derby.

Interestingly, in a similar fashion, Fernandes’ clever free-kick caught Manchester City by surprise and led to Anthony Martial’s goal during the Red Devils’ derby win in March 2020.