Much has been said of the Pogba-Fernandes partnership in central midfield but the duo cannot sustainably work in tandem in the long term. Pogba’s reluctance or inability to track back consistently and shield the defence will mean Fernandes will need to track back too much to affect things offensively. You want Fernandes to be running things from the number 10 position or as a Kevin De Bruyne style box-to-box midfielder.
The solution could be to field a triangular central midfield trio with Scott Mctominay playing alone as the holding midfielder or with Pogba next to him and Fernandes in front of them as a CAM.
Mctominay’s energy and mad-dog mentality, as Mourinho has often said, can be used to shield the defence and balance out Pogba’s and Bruno’s more attacking propensity. With all of the three players fully fit, United have the chance to field a fantastic midfield trio, the likes of which we have not seen dazzle the Old Trafford for way too long.
This trio reminds me of formidable midfield combinations which have been famous across the years. Ancelotti’s famous Gattuso-Pirlo-Kaka midfield in the 2000s, which could also be considered a quartet with Clarence Seedorf. Argentina’s Cambiasso-Mascherano-Riquelme partnership also comes to mind. If we want to look closer to Old Trafford, Fernandinho-DeBruyne-David Silva from Manchester City have brought their fair share of titles to their club.
The most successful midfield trio in recent times has to be the one which yielded four Champions League titles. Kroos and Modric were arguably two of the world’s best midfield orchestrators. They were fielded on each side of the Brazilian Casemiro, a player willing to do the dirty defensive work. While Manchester United cannot yet claim to have a midfield of this quality, they can surely hope the current three they have will allow them to challenge domestically.
With so many players back from fitness, there seems to no longer be a place in midfield for Fred, who has impressed this season and Nemanja Matic, who earned a contract extension with his composed performances before Covid-19 put the world on pause. With so many games coming up, there will surely be chances for all of them to play.
Another game plan Solskjaer could have is to field a 4-3-3 with a false nine.
This would allow Fernandes much more freedom and would mean Rashford and Martial can terrorize a full back each and converge in the box when needed. Fernandes in the false nine position would mean much more responsibility on Pogba and Mctominay to create from deeper positions but the Portuguese would probably bring in an impressive goal and assist tally. The dirty defensive work could then be left to Fred and Matic.
Ole now has plenty of options at his disposal and can set up his team the way he wants without making any concessions. It might be the first time since he joined where every top player United have are fit. Now is the time to show the board, pundits and fans he was the right pick for the managerial position at Old Trafford.
The world of football will judge him strongly on his ability to get the best out of Pogba and Fernandes, two world-class players any manager would love to have in their own teams.
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