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3 Ways In Which United Can Lineup With Both Bruno Fernandes And Paul Pogba

  • There are a number of ways Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can include both Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the same lineup.
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Modified 08 Mar 2020, 08:44 IST

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League

Manchester United’s acquisition of Bruno Fernandes, despite his all-round brilliance so far, has posed a singular issue for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer- With Paul Pogba touted to return to fitness soon, how will the Red Devils accommodate both the maestros in the same team?

This is an issue that arises largely out of the similar playing styles of the two midfielders and their shared affinity for the attacking midfield role. Here’s three ways in which the Norwegian gaffer can go about doing it:

#1 4-2-3-1 With Pogba in the pivot and Fernandes up-front

Manchester United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Manchester United v Arsenal FC - Premier League

This is the formation that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has often been inclined to use. Here, Paul Pogba will be touted to perform his usual role in the midfield alongside the prolific Scott McTominay, while Fernandes will be given reign to roam free as an attacking midfielder.

This set-up will allow Fernandes to play closer to the attacking trident. Given that the Portuguese midfielder has succeeded in ranking first in final-third passes in every single one of his appearances at United, a strong case is made about his cogency here.

As for Pogba, the Frenchman's will be able to dictate the play from the deep with his unmatched passing skill. Moreover, McTominay's physicality and proven defensive work-rate will both complement and make up for Pogba's positional inadequacies in the pivot.

As such, the Red Devils can pose a threat from passing fluidity as well as make the best out of clinical finishing up-front.

However, the renaissance of Fred will be mooted in this formation, although a McTominay-Pogba pivot could work wonders in distributing the ball, as discussed earlier, and the attacking trident having the potential to be fed from a plethora of options.

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This is the style that makes the best use of the basic skill-set at Solskjaer’s disposal without taking too many risks. 

#2 4-3-3 With Pogba at left-midfield and Fernandes alongside

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League

The formation that almost guarantees positional versatility and fluid role-exchange. It will permit Fernandes to move wide and deliver crosses, akin to Kevin De Bruyne. Interestingly, the Portuguese international has managed more passes in the box in the league, with his 44, than De Bruyne’s 41, since joining the Old Trafford outfit.

Here, it will be Nemanja Matic who will be given a deeper holding role in the midfield while Pogba and Fernandes function as attacking equals. The passing of the Portuguese midfielder will be a source of creativity complementing Pogba’s forward runs. This set up will also be the sublime best for shots from outside the box as both maestros will get ample chances without drifting too apart from their spots.

However, Matic alone at the back may leave the Mancunian side vulnerable defensively as this style has the tendency to be top-heavy. Further, United will have to do a lot to maintain possession as having two attacking-minded midfielders could entail the risk of being left wide open and caught on the counter-attack. This is an issue that United have faced in the past and any top outfit with intelligent build-up play and counter-attacking ethos will be able to punish this set-up.

#3 4-4-2 Diamond Pogba-Fred midfield pivot and Fernandes up-front

Derby County v Manchester United - FA Cup Fifth Round
Derby County v Manchester United - FA Cup Fifth Round

The formation that Solskjaer used against Everton to mixed results. This one will give Fernandes the most freedom to move about and complement the attack with Pogba and Fred proving a threat through an alternating midfield pivot.

Here, Matic will be covered and will get ample chances to go forward himself. This is also the setup that will make the most use of the collective on-pitch intelligence as the extra midfielder will counter the threat of losing possession, as in the 4-3-3, and will effectively balance the attacking tendencies of Pogba and Fernandes’ as well as the subsequent threat of losing possession.

Here, precedent has the backing given that Fred’s 315 ball recoveries is the best of any United midfielder in the Premier League this season, guarding their safety.

However, it doesn’t fully integrate the other players at United and weakens their flank-play up-front, putting a lot of pressure on the full-backs. As such, this is the go-to formation to use in the absence of Marcus Rashford and when quality is lacking on the wings.

Further, here the front two of Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial is the perfect versatile fit, adapting to a wider role when required and thus giving Fernandes more attempts at goal from a closer range.

All in all, this will be a tricky nut for Solskjaer to crack but one that could spell ample success for the Red Devils. Even though there is still some doubt regarding Pogba’s future, for the time he is at Old Trafford, his integration is pivotal given the skillset and mentality he brings to the pitch.

How should United lineup according to you?

Published 08 Mar 2020, 08:44 IST
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