Before the lockdown due to Covid-19, Manchester United were possibly playing their best football for a long time. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in the January transfer window seemed to have transformed the team and United have not lost a single game so far with the Portuguese in the team. But this revival has been built on an excellent midfield partnership and understanding between the likes of Fernandes, Fred and McTominay in Solskjaer’s 4-2-3-1 formation . Now as Paul Pogba makes his return from injury, it would be interesting to see how United fit in the Frenchman alongside Fernandes and whether Solskaer chooses to change his preferred formation.
On paper, it is easy to see how Pogba will fit into the team. One of Fred & McTominay have to be sacrificed and Pogba will play as the number “8” and Fernandes will continue to play in his more advanced role. But we all know Pogba’s problems in playing as the advanced midfielder in a double pivot especially when his partner is not a pure defensive midfielder. He did excel in this role for France playing with Kante in the World Cup but Pogba’s maturity while playing for France has not been always in display while playing for United.
Against weaker sides and especially at home, the above 4-2-3-1 formation should bring out the best of the attackers in United as both Fernandes and Pogba in possession will be deadly in advanced areas. United will dominate the ball allowing Pogba to play in a more advanced role and he would not be relied upon defensively a lot. But it is in the big games where United have been surprisingly successful this season, Solskjaer will have his challenge fitting in both the players.
Danny Murphy, the former Liverpool star commented on this issue in a conversation with Talksport.
“In the big games against Liverpool, against Barcelona in the Champions League – whatever it may be – they’re going to get found out defensively,” he said.
“It’s a delicate balance. It would definitely be exciting to see but my gut feeling is that Pogba will go because it’s going to be very difficult to keep him happy if he’s not playing every week.
Solskjaer also can choose another formation which might be be a better option for United which he has done in certain big games this season by playing three at the back.
This would be a counterattack focused formation and would allow United’s front two to utilize their pace to hit teams on the counter. But again the drawback with this formation is that it would require the back 5 along with the midfield 2 to be compact and organised while defending which would mean again relying on Pogba’s defensive discipline. So it remains to be seen which formation, Solskjaer chooses and more interestingly which role is Pogba chosen to play when the Premier League starts again post the lockdown. But certainly the prospect of Pogba and Fernandes playing together would be thrilling for the Manchester United fans.