Manchester United legend Gary Neville has theorised that his former club signed Donny van de Beek in the expectation that Paul Pogba would depart.
Van de Beek was the Red Devils’ marquee summer signing, yet the Netherlands international has been forced to way much of the campaign from the bench.
He has started only twice in the Premier League and has netted only once for his new club.
“It’s interesting, something’s happened – the Van de Beek signing’s an interesting one – I still can’t get my head around it,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“It’s almost as if that signing was sort of done in anticipation of one of the others leaving because Van de Beek has just sat on the bench for the last few months and he cost £40m. I think that Manchester United are preparing for someone leaving.
“Nemanja Matic might be finishing at the end of next season, maybe, maybe Pogba could leave.
“So they’ve already got Van de Beek in to maybe assume that role, but I think now, the way Paul Pogba’s playing and the way Manchester United’s season is going, there’s no one who’s going to come in in January and buy Paul Pogba, I don’t think Manchester United would let him go.”
The 23-year-old had arrived from Ajax and was expected to be a star performer at Old Trafford. His lack of game time, however, has prompted manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to offer him reassurance over his future.
“There are so many examples of players needing a little bit of time, quality players, we have many examples ourselves and there are other clubs with examples and sometimes it takes time,” Solskjaer said in the wake of criticism of United’s handling of the player.
“You don’t expect people who care for him to be quiet at times, especially when they want the best for them. Donny is going to play tomorrow, it’s another chance for him.
"And, yes, I’ve spoken to him and made him aware of how much we rate him, but he will play tomorrow and it’s a good chance again for him to kick on.”