Assessing Who Should Partner Paul Pogba & Bruno Fernandes in Man Utd's Midfield

After falling into obscurity following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, the future finally appears a little brighter for those on the red side of Manchester.

Whether it be the Jadon Sancho links, Bruno Fernandes' arrival, the emphasis on a youth-led revolution or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking like he can actually coach, there's reason to believe the Red Devils will re-emerge as a gargantuan European force in the 2020s.

January arrival Bruno Fernandes has had a galvanising effect on this United squad

But we've got to take just a little step back for now and focus on the short-term ahead of the Premier League's long awaited comeback on June 17. With nine games remaining, United sit fifth (the potential final Champions League spot) in the table and will travel to top-four/five rivals Tottenham in their first game back. A monster clash right off the bat.

Nevertheless, with a returning Paul Pogba and Fernandes shoo-ins for Solskjaer's starting XI - fitness permitting - the Norwegian will have to make the tricky decision as to who'll partner the creative mavericks in United's three man midfield.

Whether it's in a 4-3-3, 5-3-2 or 4-2-3-1, Solskjaer needs that third guy who'll complement deep-lying playmaker Pogba and roaming creator Fernandes, providing balance to a mightily talented midfield.

Here are the prime candidates...


Fred has defied critics with an impressive second season in Manchester

The man who made Gary Neville eat his own words in a matter of weeks, Fred's rotonda this term has proved pivotal in United's rediscovery of a functioning midfield amid Pogba's absence.

Chastened by his first 15 months or so at Old Trafford, Fred consistently showed between December and March why the Red Devils forked out over £52m to secure his services in the summer of 2018; starring in victories over Spurs and Manchester City (x2) as well as the defeat at Liverpool.

He's proved to be mightily effective when utilised as the ball-winning number eight; using his mobility to engage in duels all over the pitch and disrupt opponents in the build-up phase, while also proving adept at breaking opposition lines in possession with crisp, line-breaking vertical passes.

Despite his exponential improvement, however, Fred might not be the profile of midfielder Ole's looking for to partner the dynamic duo. The Brazilian's too tenacious and eager to play in a sensible number six role, often getting beat in one-v-one situations because of this, and overall, he won't provide the balance the United boss requires.

Scott McTominay

Scott McTominay has excelled when he's been available for the Red Devils this term

'I thought McTominay played well, though' was a regular takeaway from many of United's games amid a pretty dismal first half of the campaign. The Scotsman was one of the very few shining lights.

Blessed with supreme athleticism, fine technical attributes and a Mo Farah-like engine, McTominay is set to become a prominent member of this United side in the years to come, but much like Fred, it's hard to envisage him getting into this side unless Pogba is converted into a more disciplined six.

However, while the Scot is a box-to-box number eight, his skill set's a little more suited for playing in a positional role compared to the Brazilian. He's more intelligent, disciplined and tactically aware.

Similarly, the 23-year-old could be deployed as part of a double pivot next to Pogba in 4-2-3-1, with Bruno functioning as the ten.

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic served a key function in United's 2-0 victory over Manchester CIty back in March

The Serb's renaissance since the turn of the new year was pivotal in United's success up until the break in March. Matic had formed a fine relationship with Fred as part of the double pivot.

The positional Matic's astute screening of the defence allowed the tenacious Fred to serve as a the tenacious 'destroyer', N'Golo Kante style. The pair complemented one another wonderfully well.

Nevertheless, if the 31-year-old is able to rediscover the form on display at the start of the year, there's no doubting he'll be the ideal partner for the pair of mavericks in midfield, no matter what system Ole opts for.

The Serb's defensive nous and stellar ability at shunning the opposition's progression in central areas is ultimately superior to other candidates, granting Pogba and Bruno greater freedom to impact proceedings from an attacking perspective.


Scott McTominay gets the nod

Fred and Matic's respective resurgences have made this an incredibly tough call, especially after McTominay endured an injury set-back at the end of 2019.

However, Fred's drawbacks from a positional perspective - he can't play as a six or without a Matic-like partner - probably leaves him as the third-choice out of the three and he'll have to settle for a rotational role with Pogba.

Despite Matic's superior capabilities as a midfield screener, it might be worth Ole having a look at McSauce in a defensive midfield role because, well, he's a better footballer than Matic at this point in the Serb's career.

Source : 90min