Amazing bond between Van de Beek and Abdelhak Nouri as Man Utd new boy carries on tragic Ajax pal's legacy

NEW Manchester United star Donny van de Beek has opened up about his special relationship with tragic Ajax pal Abdelhak Nouri.

The pair were team-mates going through Ajax's academy and both made first-team breakthroughs during the club's run to the 2017 Europa League final.

But tragedy struck in July 2017, when Nouri suffered a heart attack during a friendly with Werder Bremen.

And the former starlet was subsequently in a coma for over a year, having sustained severe brain damage.

But van de Beek, 23, never forgot about his friend – and offered constant support to his family.

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Earlier this year, the new Man United star said of his friend "Appie": "He really had the quality to reach the top. I was convinced he would reach the very top.

"I have always said up. Sadly we will never find out.

"After the tragedy, I visited Nouri's family a lot. I spoke to them a lot and we shared our feelings. Mo [Nouri's brother] always slept in the same room as Nouri so I went to sleep in Nouri's bed."

Nouri, now 23, wore the No34 shirt at Ajax – and the number has taken on a special significance with a number of his former team-mates – including van de Beek.

The Dutchman selected the number upon signing for the Red Devils – much to the delight of Appie.

Nouri is now bed-ridden at home, but can communicate through facialexpressions and raising his eyebrows.

And after his son's friend's move to Old Trafford, Nouri's father Mohammed told NOS: "Donny called me. He asked if I was okay with him playing with number 34.

"And I said he should. I can only be proud of that, it's a nice gesture, very special for us."

According to Sport Witness, he added: "Appie's eyes looked very sharp suddenly.

"He had tears of joy on his cheeks and was clearly moved when he heard Donny's voice. Donny is like a son to us.

"Everyone at our house was very emotional, happy with Donny's wonderful transfer. It was a special day."

Another former team-mate to have taken the No34 shirt is German national team player Amin Younes, now of Napoli.

And writing for Goal, he spoke of the special talent of Nouri – likening him to Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong – as well as van de Beek.

Off the pitch they were inseparable. And on the pitch they were unbelievably good

He said: "Appie was part of the highly-talented group with Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek.

"Off the pitch they were inseparable. And on the pitch they were unbelievably good. Everyone who did not have tomatoes as eyes knew it: These kids can make it to the top one day.

"After my training I often watched games of Jong Ajax, the reserve team, and I was surprised watching them. Especially Appie.

"He made the difference with his ball control, his dribbling skills and the way he anticipated the game. Seeing him in our training sessions I just thought: Man, this guy is getting better and better!"

On the tragedy, Younes continued: "It feels like it was yesterday. A few days after I’d won the Confed Cup with Germany, I went to my home country Lebanon with my father to recharge my batteries.

"I remember when I opened the live scores on my mobile phone to check how we were getting along against Werder Bremen. And then suddenly it was leaked that something terrible happened to Appie.

"At first, I thought he suffered from weakness due to Ramadan or because it was just too hot on that day. But a few hours later, Dennis Bergkamp called me and asked me to come to the training camp in Austria as soon as possible.

"The journey to Austria was a nightmare for me. I was so scared and prayed for my little brother who was just 20-years-old. When I arrived at the training camp – I was the only player back late – and went to the meeting room, I only saw petrified faces.

"The team doctor informed us about what had happened to Appie. Many of us broke down in tears immediately. It was hell.

"Especially for his three closest childhood friends Frenkie, Matthijs and Donny because they knew Appie better than I, El Ghazi and all the others. At first, there was nothing but an incredible emptiness."

Van de Beek and Younes aren't the only ones to have adopted the No34, with Kevin Diks at Fiorentina, Justin Kluivert at AS Roma and Philippe Sandler at Manchester City having followed suit.

Ajax have since admitted their errors regarding the incident.

Club general manager Edwin Van der Sar said: "We recognise our responsibility and liability for the consequences of this.

"For a long time we were convinced that Abdelhak had received the best possible care on the field. Had this happened, it's possible that Abdelhak would have come out in a better condition. This isn't certain, but it's a possibility."

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