With the presence of Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United are always confident that goals will arrive. The overreliance on the Portuguese international has not yet become a burden, but it is clear that with the injury to Paul Pogba, the Red Devils lack creativity from elsewhere.
In games where the opposition deploy a low block, such as against Newcastle United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side struggle to create chances unless they are through Fernandes. Of course, his role in the team is to do precisely that, but when a bad game appears for him, which it will, the team looks sluggish and flat.
With the midfield partnership of Scott McTominay and Fred, there has been a pattern of play which is easy to detect for the opposition and stagnates Manchester United’s forward momentum.
McTominay has shown over the last few months that he has the ability to bombard forward and get among the goals, but Fred is wasteful when it comes to the final third, often shooting with his right and weaker foot that blazes over the crossbar.
Pogba’s future is uncertain with crucial decisions to be made as he enters the final year of his contract this summer. The Red Devils will only have this summer to sell him and make some of their money back on him, or they will run a high risk of losing him on a free transfer.
Manchester United are likely to dip into the market for a new midfielder this summer, but they have one closer to home in Donny van de Beek who can deliver in the final third and act as a crucial cog in midfield.
The Dutchman has not had an easy run this season, coming off the bench for the last 15 minutes or so, or playing in a severely weakened team which doesn’t appear to be on his wavelength.
But as a number eight, van de Beek has shown his prowess for AFC Ajax by slotting balls in between the lines and intricate one-touch interchanges with the advanced forwards.
Now back fit after some time out through injury, Solskjaer needs to trust the Dutch international more and allow him the run of games needed in order to build up his match rhythm.
Some games are not suited for van de Beek at this stage with Fernandes also in the team. However, the likes of Burnley, West Brom and Sheffield United, who do deploy low block tactics and are negative in terms of their approach, are the most opportune moments for Manchester United to use him.
There is still plenty of football to be played now until the end of the season, but it is clear that without Fernandes’ best being shown on the pitch, Manchester United’s midfield quickly run out of ideas in penetrating certain defenses and teams.