Exclusive - Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville has admitted he's relishing the prospect of seeing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the same midfield - with his former club set to return to Premier League action on Friday night.
Pre-match suggestions for United's trip to Tottenham Hotspur are that Pogba, who has spent a large chunk of this season injured, will start the game on the bench. The suspension of the season due to coronavirus has given the Frenchman time to recover from a foot injury, and he's now fit and firing ahead of the Premier League restart this week.
The prospect of Pogba lining up alongside new January signing Fernandes - who made a huge impression on United in the opening weeks of his Old Trafford career - has made Neville believe United have a big chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Exclusively speaking to 90min alongside fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, Neville spoke about his new view on United's midfield, players returning from injury, what they need to address in the summer and the future of Pogba himself.
Neville said: "I’ve got this feeling that Manchester United are going to return really well - because of Pogba being back, [Marcus] Rashford being back from injury.
"You’ve got a team that if they continue to do what they were doing before the lockdown - defensively, they got their act together - and if you now put Rashford and Pogba back into that team and they pick up where they left off, you’ve got something that’s pretty exciting."
It's a huge change in perspective or United fans, Neville included, who have been critical of the team's midfield for some time during the tenure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
"Six months ago I was looking at the team and saying ‘Manchester United haven’t got a midfield’," Neville added.
"It was [Scott] McTominay and Fred, who at that time hadn’t played probably a decent game between them. And all of a sudden McTominay and Fred started to play brilliantly together, Fred’s been fantastic, and [Nemanja] Matic is playing well. With Pogba and Fernandes you’ve all of a sudden gone from ‘glass half empty’ - or very empty - to a glass that looks nearly full.
"They look like that department is actually fixed. And six months ago it looked like it was broken completely because you were imagining that Matic was finished, Fred had not proved himself, McTominay wasn’t proven and that Pogba was going to leave. Now all of a sudden you’re looking at it completely the other way."
Pogba has attracted interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in recent months, and a move was expected to happen for him this summer before the financial impact of COVID-19 on the world of football. Now, even the world's biggest clubs are having to reassess their plans, and it could mean Pogba ends up staying at Old Trafford into next season.
The player has one year left on his contract with United, though the club have the option to extend for a further year, and Neville would like to see the player back to his best.
"There’s always been speculation around him, but what coronavirus has done is take that speculation away," he said. "My feeling is I’d want to see a Paul Pogba settled at Manchester United, assisting and scoring goals like he has at the rate he has."
Both Neville and Carragher have tipped United to be the team to qualify for the Champions League should Manchester City's ban from the competition be upheld, and both even suggested that United have a chance of making up ground on soon-to-be champions Liverpool next season, should their form dip.
Neville, however, believes United need to make signings first - and the club are planning to address problem positions in the summer with names such as Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish on their list of priorities.
He said: "They still need three, four or five good signings. Midfield was a massive area of concern, and now it's not. They do need a right winger. I think Daniel James is exciting and in certain games he can play there, but I think you need someone world class on that right hand side. And then you would like to see another centre forward, potentially."
The Premier League returns to Sky Sports with a double-header on Wednesday 17 June. Sky Sports and NOW TV will show 64 matches – 39 exclusive to subscribers and an extra 25 available on Sky’s free-to-air channel, ‘Pick’.
Source : 90min