Donny van de Beek decision is part of Ralf Rangnick’s tactical evolution at Manchester United – Casey Evans

A lot of Manchester United fans were left confused when the team news for Thursday’s games against Burnley filtered through.

Donny van de Beek had been tipped by most to be handed a start due to the absence of Bruno Fernandes, with the Portuguese midfielder forced to endure a game on the sidelines having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Newcastle.

Ralf Rangnick had other ideas.

The United boss opted to play Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho behind Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo, leaving Van de Beek to once again watch on from the bench.

It’s become something of a matchday tradition for United fans to take to social media an hour before kick-off to moan that Van de Beek isn’t in the starting XI, though it became clear very early on why Rangnick hadn’t opted to start the former Ajax man.

United seemingly deployed a 4-4-2 formation from the off, a fitting tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson who was honoured with a banner ahead of his 80th birthday.

Greenwood and Sancho provided width in a bid to stretch Burnley’s tight-knit defence, with the latter linking up well with Luke Shaw on the left-hand side.

Van de Beek would have struggled to add this extra dimension to United’s play given his tendency to operate in the centre of the pitch.

United fans thought Van de Beek would be given his chance on Thursday night

Of course, Rangnick also had the option of playing him as part of the midfield pivot. Instead, Scott McTominay was partnered alongside Nemanja Matic, and the Scotsman produced a stellar display as he was afforded licence to roam, something he seldom gets chance to do when partnered with Fred.

While Van de Beek proved in his time with Ajax that he can play as a box-to-box midfielder, he wouldn’t have been able to shield the backline as well as Matic did on the night, meaning McTominay wouldn’t have been able to play such progressive football and United might not have grabbed the early lead that proved so crucial to the win.

There was also the issue of trying to deal with Burnley’s physicality. McTominay had to battle throughout the game with the likes of Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork, with a number of feisty challenges flying about in the centre of the pitch.

The United midfielder held his own and was able to deal with this challenge while retaining possession, but there’s an argument to be made that Van de Beek would have struggled in such a situation.

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Given the lack of opportunities afforded to Van de Beek during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as manager combined with his similar plight since Rangnick’s arrival, question marks will of course be raised over his future at the club.

However, Thursday’s game against a combative Burnley side was not the right time to hand him his chance and Rangnick got the decision absolutely spot on.

Do you think Van de Beek deserves his chance at Manchester United? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter and get involved in the discussion in the comment section below.

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