Netherlands midfielder is club’s first summer signing
United could pay a further €5m in add-ons
Manchester United have completed the signing of the Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, paying €39m (£34.7m) plus a possible €5m in add-ons to secure the Netherlands international on a five-year contract.
The 23-year-old is already hugely experienced, having joined the Amsterdam club at the age of 11 and come through the ranks to make his senior debut five years ago. Van de Beek was in the Ajax team beaten by United in the 2017 Europa League final, and last year reached the semi-final of the Champions League before being knocked out by Tottenham. He has made 10 appearances for the Netherlands, making his debut in 2017, and came on as a substitute in the final of last year’s Nations League.
Speaking for the first time as a United player, Van de Beek said: “I cannot begin to explain how incredible an opportunity it is to join a club with such an amazing history. I would like to thank everyone at Ajax, I grew up there and will always have a special bond with the club, but now I am ready to take the next step in my career. I want to perform at the highest level and there is no higher standard than Manchester United.”
Van de Beek’s capture is further evidence of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s and his board’s ability to identify and sign leading international performers of the right age and mentality, even if few thought United’s midfield was the area most in need of strengthening. Many supporters would like to see central defence reinforced, though there is no doubt Van de Beek is a quality player with a lot of years ahead of him signed for a relatively reasonable price.
Yet as long as Paul Pogba remains at the club starting opportunities may be limited for Van de Beek because of the outstanding form of Bruno Fernandes, Solskjær’s most recent midfield acquisition who is credited with the upturn in United’s form since the turn of the year. Van de Beek is an attacking midfielder somewhat in the manner of Paul Scholes or Frank Lampard, and it is unlikely even Solksjær would field three such players in the same side without including a defensive midfielder such as Nemanja Matic or Scott McTominay.
Van de Beek may have been signed with an eye on the future, or he may be insurance against Pogba’s possible departure. Either way, it would appear Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard are destined to become even more peripheral figures.
“This team has some of the best midfielders in the world, and I know I can learn from them as well as bring my own strengths to the group,” Van de Beek said. “Having spoken to the manager about his vision for this team, the direction the club is going in is hugely exciting and I cannot wait to be a part of it. Everyone has told me how amazing the Old Trafford atmosphere is and I am looking forward to experiencing it, once it is safe for the fans to return.”
Solskjær said: “Donny has all the technical attributes needed to perform in this team and he also has the personality required to succeed at Manchester United. His ability to see space, time his movements and read the game will really complement the qualities we already have in midfield and his arrival strengthens the depth of talent we have in that area. Donny’s performances in the Eredivisie and in Europe have been excellent over the last few years and we are all looking forward to working with him.”
Marc Overmars, the Ajax director of football, added: “This is a great transfer for Donny, one which he deserves, and it is also a compliment to the Ajax youth academy. After five years as a senior Donny is ready for this step, but we will miss him.”
Meanwhile, Roma are close to agreeing a deal to sign Chris Smalling permanently, for about £13.5m.