Donny van de Beek believes Manchester United captain Harry Maguire showed “big personality” with his impressive reaction to some merciless booing during the opening stages against Crystal Palace in Melbourne.
The Erik ten Hag era continued with another promising pre-season friendly win on Tuesday evening in Australia, where the Red Devils recorded a 3-1 victory at the cavernous MCG.
Anthony Martial opened the scoring with his third goal in as many games, before Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho finished fine team moves in the second half.
There was a Joel Ward consolation and late red card for United youngster Will Fish but the main talking point in Melbourne was the jeers that met every Maguire touch at the start of the match.
The 29-year-old appeared to win over supporters with an impressive showing and the boos subsided, with team-mate Van de Beek impressed by the way the skipper bounced back.
“I heard as well,” the Holland international told the PA news agency. “I didn’t know really what happened.
“But I think if I saw the game today I think Harry was playing really well.
“He was aggressive, he got so many balls, so that means he has a big personality.
“He has a lot of experience, so I think that’s positive what he (showed), his performance today.”
The negativity towards Maguire petered out as attention turned back to the promising friendly performance by United, who have now won all three pre-season matches to date.
Some of Ten Hag’s fingerprints are already visible in United’s approach – tactics Van de Beek knows better than most having worked under him with great success in Ajax.
Asked what the manager is trying to make the group do, he puffed his cheeks and said: “So many things. But I think he likes the details as well and he asks a lot from you as a player.
“You have to be fit to play his style of football but I think we have the right players for that.
“We just have to keep going and repeat all the time and then we will improve I’m sure.
“I mean, in the pressure you could see already a bit different things than before but also in building up, a lot of variations.
“I think still we can improve a lot of things but, yeah, it seems like positive and we just need to keep going and train good.”
Van de Beek could be forgiven for punching the air when it emerged that Ten Hag was joining him at Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old midfielder has struggled to make an impact since joining from Ajax in September 2020 and spent the second half of last season on loan at Everton.
“Good question,” Van de Beek said when asked why he has not been at his best since the move.
“Of course you think a lot about football, but on the end you need to stay yourself and you never have to change as a player.
“So, yeah, it also depends on which manager is in the club, which kind of players does he like.
“I just do my best and I have to push every day. Of course everyone can improve and me as well, so I’m always looking how I can improve.
“I don’t think everything was bad (in my time in England). I think I also show a good few moments.
“But, just again, I will never change as a player. Of course you can improve things, but on the end, what I say, you never have to change and I will not do that.
“Every player has his own qualities, me as well so that’s it.”
Put to Van de Beek that he must have been happy to hear his old manager was being appointed by United, he said with a smile: “Yeah, I don’t know. Of course they say that because I had him in Ajax.
“But, again, you know, in the end you have to play good for him from yourself and it doesn’t make any sense who is the coach. You need to find your role in the team.
“Of course he knows me as a player but, still, that says nothing, you know? I have to show it for myself.”
Van de Beek may have struggled to fulfil his potential in a United shirt so far but the constant backing from fans has not gone unnoticed.
“I think, yeah, that’s positive that they like me,” he added.
“They know I will always give everything and, yeah, I hope one day I will give them something back.
“But it gives you confidence as well and it’s a good feeling.”