Even Ten Hagg abandoned the ‘protégé’ conjugation

Coach Erik ten Hagh has no intention of using Donny van der Beek.

He’s one of the players behind Ajax’s breakout season. Dutch giants Ajax had an incredible 2018-19 season in the UEFA Champions League (UCL). They knocked out perennial favorites Real Madrid in the round of 16 and Italian giants Juventus in the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, they met Tottenham Hotspur, taking a 1-0 win away from home in the first leg and a 2-0 lead at halftime in the second leg. However, a dramatic second-half hat-trick from Lucas Moura prevented them from reaching the final.

Despite the disappointing finish to the tournament, the players were able to take their careers to the next level. Frankie the Dragon headed to Barcelona, while Matthijs de Ligt moved to Juventus. Hakim Ziyech also made the jump to the big leagues, joining Chelsea.

Van der Beek’s destination was Manchester United. The signing of van der Vaal was a huge boost for the Red Devils, who had a weak midfield at the time. The fans were excited to see what he could do.

However, his time at United was a disaster. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shunned van der Vaart, and he spent most of the season on the bench. He was expected to be a beneficiary of the arrival of his ‘mentor’, Louis van Gaal, but even under Van Gaal, van der Vaart was not given a chance.

Loans didn’t help either. He was sent out on loan to Everton at the end of the 2021-22 season and performed reasonably well, scoring one goal in seven games, but it didn’t affect his position at United. In 2022-23, he made just 10 appearances, including a cup tie, and has played just 21 minutes this season.

The downfall of a protégé. ‘Master’ Van Gaal has expressed his disappointment. However, there seemed to be no place for van der Vaart in his plans. According to European football transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano, Van Gaal said: “I think van der Vaart should play. He’s been recovering a little bit since his physical injury. It was a slow start, but he’s back. He needs to play. For his career, for everything.” It’s a positive response, but there’s a nuance to Van Gaal’s comments that hints at a transfer. Romano also revealed that van der Vaart will leave the club in the January transfer window.


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