Donny van de Beek was handed only his third start for Manchester United this season in Tuesday’s clash with Villarreal as Michael Carrick took charge for the first time.
United were in action for the first time since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal on Sunday, and Carrick – named caretaker manager ahead of an expected interim appointment – made his presence known.
Van de Beek came straight into the starting XI after a positive cameo off the bench in Solskjaer’s final game, the 4-1 defeat at Watford.
The Dutchman scored United’s only goal in that game, which was just his third top-flight appearance of the season.
Your United line-up to take on Villarreal…
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 23, 2021
Van de Beek has been bizarrely marginalised since joining from Ajax last year for approximately £45million, as he made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.
As such, he has lost his place in the Netherlands team and media speculation has strongly suggested he was planning to engineer a move away in the upcoming January transfer window.
But Carrick elected to give him a rare opportunity from the start, with Bruno Fernandes the one to drop out of the team.
Jadon Sancho also showed flashes of quality against Watford and retained his place in the starting XI, though Marcus Rashford – withdrawn at half-time at Vicarage Road – was dropped in favour of Anthony Martial, who replaced him at the weekend.
Luke Shaw missed out at left-back due to a head injury, meaning Alex Telles filled in.
Heading into the game, United sat top of Group F but level on seven points with Villarreal.