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Edwin explains what Donny will bring

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Gemma Thompson

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Our ex-no.1, now CEO of Ajax, reluctantly bid farewell to van de Beek earlier this month when United secured a deal with the Dutch club for Donny’s services.

Van der Sar joined MUTV Group Chat on Wednesday and spoke fondly of our new recruit as he explained the qualities he will bring in midfield.

“He can play in different positions in midfield – he can be a six or an eight or a 10, he has a great eye for a goal. His technique is brilliant, he can go box to box,” declared the four-time Premier League winner.

“I’d compare him a little bit to Scholesy, although Scholesy had a cracker of a shot from 30/40 yards out and that’s not Donny’s strength, but he likes to come into the box and chip in with goals. Maybe it’s unfair to compare him to Scholesy actually, but he’s a good lad and I’m sure he’ll be a great addition to the team that Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] is creating for United.

“I presume he’s had a talk with Ole and they’ve talked about different positions [he can play]. He’s multi-functional, he can play a little bit deeper which I think is his preferred role.

“Of course, we know United already have a couple of great midfield players there so he will find his way in the team and also with the amount of games that top clubs need to play this year in the Premier League and Champions League and the cup matches, everything is quite intense so you need a good, wide squad and I think the midfield looks okay at the moment for United.

“He grew through the system at Ajax,” added Edwin as he talked further about Donny. “Ajax is in his heart - you maybe saw an image of him as a ballboy at a Champions League match. 

“For our players you work hard for five or six years in the Academy and you try to get your chance and the moment he got it, he took it and he became an important member of our team, scoring amazing goals and he was extremely popular with the fans.

”Unfortunately we only got to do a send-off with 100 fans after the international match he played with Holland recently. Normally we like to say a big farewell to our players.

“We know that Ajax is a club that develops young players, it’s very similar to United. I saw that in my six years there and you had players like Gary [Neville] and Ryan [Giggs], and now you have Mason [Greenwood], [Marcus] Rashford, [Scott] McTominay, [Brandon] Williams… United is also a club that gives chances to young players and of course you guys have the financial power to really get players to a high level.

“Our league is not as strong as the top five leagues and that’s why we’re in the position that after two or three years when a player gives their all to the club, wins trophies, scores goals, at a certain point we allow the player to take the next step.

”I think we work in good faith with the player, the agent and the family to find the right club and the right path to develop yourself and get to a high level. At a certain point that level is so high that other clubs would like the services of the player, that’s the way we operate in Holland.

“For us we lose our best players and somehow from the middle and bottom we need to grow again. You guys can replace a player with a top player, that’s the difference between United and Ajax. Of course, it’s a good thing that we, let’s say, ‘lose’ players because we can give a chance to younger players who are maybe getting anxious wanting playing time and wondering where they fit in.

“So in that way we can keep the system rolling in my view, but the main thing is also our aim in Europe. Of course I’d rather keep Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech as that would probably bring us more success in Europe, but for their development then they take the next step to a big European competition, and that only gives credit to our coaches, the Youth Academy and the people who invest a lot of time in making the players better.

”Also for the fans they want to have their heroes, but they’re also looking for new heroes and that’s the challenge that we have at Ajax.”

Edwin also reflected on his fantastic period at United between 2005-2011 and revealed he could have joined earlier than he did. Nevertheless, the 49-year-old has nothing but great memories of his time as a Red.

“I think there was a chance but I think United hesitated a little bit,” he revealed. “I told Ajax I wanted to leave in ’99 and I visited a couple of European clubs.

“I was in Liverpool also, that was a rainy day so it was not that attractive! [Laughs] I was in Turin and I spoke to the coach and my agent and more or less we agreed then to join Juve. Then at the airport we got a call from United to ask if we wanted to come over and it was a little bit too late to be fair. In that situation I wanted to stick to the promises I’ve made. So I went to Juventus.

“It wasn’t the success that I expected so after two years I left and needed to find a new club and Fulham showed some interest. I had a fantastic four years at Fulham and I didn’t expect to stay so long. I was fortunate and happy but then I had a voicemail from Alex Ferguson asking me to give him a call back. 

“I have so many great memories from United. We had a great defence but it was about the whole team. [Wayne] Rooney and [Cristiano] Ronaldo were developing, [Michael] Carrick was a stronghold, we had Giggs, Gary [Neville] and Scholes, and for me it was a joy to play for the club.

”In certain games you didn’t have much to do but in that one moment when you need to be there, that’s when you need to be ready. As a team, we had the strength, the will, the power, the ambition of the club and it was easy to play with whoever was in front of me. It’s just been great to be part of the history of the club.”

Get ready for next season with our 2020/21 home, away and third kits which are available now from United Direct.

by

Gemma Thompson

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