Rio Ferdinand has claimed Donny van de Beek is the only Manchester United star who will sacrifice parts of his own game for the good of the team, while Owen Hargreaves hailed his “close to perfect” performance.
The Dutch midfielder has found regular playing time hard to come by since arriving from Ajax in a £40million move during the summer.
But Van de Beek was given a chance to shine on Tuesday night, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed him a rare start in United’s 4-1 Champions League win over Istanbul Basaksehir.
The 23-year-old was deployed at the base of the United midfield behind Bruno Fernandes instead of further forward in the number 10 slot.
Despite the positional switch the 23-year-old looked comfortable throughout the 90 minutes and Ferdinand told BT Sport: “Yeah, I really, really was [impressed].
“I think we’ve all been waiting to see him play, when you spend £40million on a player you want him to make more than just little cameos here and there.
“Obviously we’ve been impatient with that but Ole’s had a reason for that and today he justified why he’s been brought to the club and why he’s thought of so highly in European football.
“It’s the intelligence, he’s the one player in this squad who’s happy playing one touch, who’s happy playing two-touch, who’s happy playing it simple.
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“He’ll sacrifice parts of his game for other people to flourish, and that’s an important factor in any great team, you need players like that.
“And he’s one player who I feel will make other players tick and perform better.
“I think Bruno was the main person today who benefited from him being in this team.”
Ferdinand’s fellow BT Sport pundit Hargreaves hailed the performance as “close to perfect” and added: “Van de Beek is so unselfish that he can just fit in.
“I think he’s played himself into the starting lineup.”
Van de Beek was also pleased with his own performance after impressing in a deeper role in the absence of Paul Pogba.
“It was really good. Some games I play number 10, sometimes the coach needs me in the control position, that’s fine for me. Sometimes in Ajax I was also playing in that position so it’s OK,” Van de Beek told MUTV.
“I think it’s a good reaction from the away game, 4-1 at home, you can be happy. First half was really good, especially the first 30 minutes, we played really nice football, scored really nice goals.
“Second half we lose too many balls, we gave them some chances, but last five minutes we control the game again and we make a nice (fourth) goal.”