Solskjaer has last laugh after controversial Donny van de Beek decision

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received a lot of criticism this season for his handling of Holland international Donny van de Beek.

From the first day he opted against making the £35million signing the focal point of his Manchester United midfield, Solskjaer has been challenged.

Van de Beek's advisor, Ajax legend Sjaak Swart, broke the ice, announcing: "A substitute, I don't like it at all. I couldn't do it myself, substituting in with four minutes left to play. Then you'd better let me sit down."

Former Netherlands striker Marco van Basten added: "Donny shouldn't have gone to United. When you're a good player you want to play every week. It's really bad for a player like Donny to play six or seven games this year. That's shocking for your rhythm."

And even Rafael van der Vaart had a few things to say.

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"Wait? Patience? Would you like it if you are stuck on the bench?" asked the Dutchman.

"The players in front of you can't even kick a marble and [Solskjaer] still does not put you in the team. I would not be happy. I would certainly not be enjoying my football there. Look at the player Donny is and how he performs at international level. I would not have it."

Van de Beek made his first Premier League start in late November before representing the Red Devils in various cup competitions, prompting critics to step back.

But over the Christmas and New Year's period, Van de Beek played no football, and it wasn't long before Solskjaer was being criticised again.

Ronald de Boer got the ball rolling, telling AD: "Euro 2020 is coming, he will undoubtedly want to be there. Maybe it would be good for him to discuss with the club exactly what they want with him.

"If the view on playing time does not improve, he may have to declare that he should be loaned or even sold. You have to be lucky every now and then. Of course it doesn't look great now, but with a great performance it can suddenly change completely.

"We also don't know what's going on behind the scenes. Perhaps they have made certain agreements with his transfer, they will get him ready for next year this season. That always remains a bit of a guess."

Former Man United striker Dimitar Berbatov shared this sentiment, and also instructed Van de Beek to speak to Red Devils chiefs to clarify his position at the club.

Netherlands international Van de Beek was left on the bench for the semi-final of the Carabao Cup against Manchester City.

Solskjaer brought the midfielder on two minutes before the end of the 2-0 defeat, with some fans labelling the decision "disgraceful".

Solskjaer responded to the fresh criticism, and the suggestion that Van de Beek is unhappy at United, in a press conference ahead of the FA Cup win over Watford.

He promised to start the midfielder against the Hornets, and insisted there is no issue between him and the player at Old Trafford.

"I've answered this question so many times. There are so many examples of players needing a little bit of time, quality players," said the Manchester United boss.

"We have many examples ourselves and there are other clubs with examples. Sometimes it takes time. 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, that's another chance for him. I've spoken to him and reiterated and made him aware of how much we rate him. But he'll play tomorrow and that's another good chance to kick on."

Van de Beek played well against Watford, but was subsequently dropped to the bench once again for the Premier League match against Burnley.

The midfielder played no part in the 1-0 win at Turf Moor and instead appeared a forlorn figure as he watched the action from the dugout.

Solskjaer will likely receive more stick for his handling of the £35million summer signing as the month roles on.

But a quick glance at the Premier League table suggests the criticism aimed at the Manchester United manager is unwarranted.

Van de Beek's situation is a difficult one, but he is not alone in sitting games out at Old Trafford, nor is he in any way being frozen out of the action.

He's made 21 appearances for United first season – 11 more than Daniel James, for example – in what is his first campaign playing in the Premier League.

What's more, the Red Devils are top of the league for the first time since 2017.

Solskjaer has landed on a winning formula at Old Trafford and his side are firing on all cylinders, with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay both in the form of their lives.

Van de Beek is far from Solskjaer's biggest concern at the moment, and appeasing him with more minutes would actively look to upset the success he has generated.

For now, it seems, the Dutchman will just have to wait.

Should Donny van de Beek leave Man United this January? Have your say here.

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