This was supposed to be the season when Manchester United fans finally got to see the real Donny van de Beek. 
The Dutchman returned for pre-season training full of hope after positive talks with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about his role in the team.
Van de Beek believed that he would get a real shot at proving his worth after a nightmare first season at Old Trafford in which he started just 15 times following his £35 million ($46m) move from Ajax in August 2020.
However, the first half of the current campaign continued in the same vein and not even a change of manager helped him push his way into the team.
The midfielder’s unhappiness led to a deadline-day departure to Everton, where he will stay on loan until the end of the season.
So, where did it go wrong for Van de Beek at United? 
Among some at the club’s Carrington training base, there was a belief that when he arrived, he was not ready for the physicality of playing regularly in the Premier League.
They felt that, compared to other players that had come from abroad, he was struggling to adapt to the rigours of English football.
Consequently, there were those that argued that, at least initially, Van De Beek should be used more regularly in the Champions League, where he had made his name with Ajax. 
However, his lack of game time raised eyebrows. It was only a matter of months after his arrival in Manchester that famous former Netherlands internationals began publicly urging Van de Beek to put in a transfer request in January 2021.
He was willing to fight for his place at that point but, by the summer, he wanted out and requested a loan move.
However, Van de Beek was told that he was likely to see more action in 2021-22, with Solskjaer planning to ditch one of his two holding midfielders in order to play a more attacking formation.
The 24-year-old had enjoyed an impressive pre-season campaign and, after having to withdraw from the Netherlands squad for last summer’s European Championship due to injury, he had spent the time off bulking up to help him deal with the demands of the Premier League. 
All in all, then, Van de Beek didn’t feel too bad about his loan request being denied. However, his sense of optimism was quickly replaced with a familiar feeling of frustration.
Sources say that van de Beek wasn’t given an explanation as to why he wasn’t being selected by Solskjaer and there was a feeling that the Norwegian had his favourites, players that would always start no matter what.
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo also complicated matters for Van de Beek.
The Portuguese obviously wasn’t a direct rival for a starting spot but his guaranteed inclusion in the starting line-up did mean that United always had to play in a certain way, while the competition for starting spots among the squad’s more creative players only increased.
So, when he was dropped by his national team in August, Van de Beek again pushed for a transfer and he could have even joined Everton before the close of the summer window had Solskjaer not blocked the move.
Once again, the former United forward told Van de Beek that he was “needed” at Old Trafford.
Van de Beek, though, was annoyed by the decision and his disappointment only intensified as the season wore on, with Solskjaer only using him six times in all competitions before being dismissed in November.
By that point, Van de Beek had clearly had enough. His lack of a transfer, coupled with minimal minutes, led to him changing agents ahead of the January window.
Great second session as a 🔵! Thank you for making me feel so welcome. 🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/rJhl4dtQ2z
Van de Beek left long-term advisor Guido Albers to link up with Ali Dursun in the hope of finally securing a move away from Old Trafford.
Van de Beek finally got his wish on Monday but there is no option to buy in the loan deal, so his Old Trafford career might not be over just yet.
Indeed, it is understood that United believe that there could still be a future for him at the club. Consequently, they want to wait until a decision is made on their next permanent manager before letting Van de Beek leave for good.
Ralf Rangnick obviously occupies the hot seat for now and it is not yet known for sure if his interim role could turn into a permanent position.
What’s clear, though, is that the German, just like Solskjaer before him, felt he had better players than Van de Beek at his disposal.
“It’s a question of competition,” Rangnick told reporters when asked why he had only given Van de Beek one start.
“Like Paul Pogba, I see him in the centre of midfield as one of the 6 or 8 positions and we have quite a few other good players in those positions and, therefore, he didn’t get much game time.
“But that doesn’t mean he’s not good enough for the Premier League or Manchester United. 
“I’m pretty sure that he will get his game time at Everton and show what kind of quality he can be.
“He’s a fantastic person and in the last nine or 10 weeks when I got to know him I’m fully aware he’s a fantastic team player and I wish him all the very best for the next months at Everton.”
OFFICIAL: Donny van de Beek joins Everton on loan from Manchester United ✅

Frank Lampard’s first signing as manager 🤝 pic.twitter.com/Dc169dZoQ5
Frank Lampard is also optimistic van de Beek will prove himself a Premier League player.  
“A player like Donny is someone who can link play and has the confidence and intelligence to receive the ball in all areas,” Lampard said. “He’s versatile in midfield.”
Of course, it must be said that the qualities Lampard is talking about were barely seen in Van de Beek’s 18 months at United.
The club’s social media accounts celebrated the midfielder’s 50 appearances for the club last month but just 19 starts and nine 90-minute outings are not much to shout about for a player that arrived to such fanfare. 
Still, if things go well for him at Goodison Park, he will likely return to Manchester with more Premier League minutes under his belt than he has managed in his United career so far.
Whether he would use a successful loan spell to secure a permanent move away from Old Trafford remains to be seen. 
For now, he just needs to prove all those doubters wrong and show he has exactly what it takes to make it in the Premier League.
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