There is a little bit of panic among Manchester United fans over Bruno Fernandes’ availability over the next fortnight.
The ludicrous decision to play three international games during the break during a pandemic has predictably caused chaos.
Fernandes’ Portugal teammate Cristiano Ronaldo has tested positive for Covid-19.
The United midfielder tested negative, and as his Instagram post shows, he is continuing to prepare for tonight’s Nations League game with Sweden.
Newspaper A Bola speculate – note that word – that all of his Portugal international teammates could have to quarantine for 14 days upon return to the UK.
While unclear if this is the case, if this did happen, it would be a nightmare for United, causing Fernandes to miss matches with Newcastle, PSG, Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal.
We expect Fernandes won’t have to quarantine, but allow us to indulge this speculation for a moment.
United are actually positioned better for Fernandes’ absence than previously. It would be a tough blow, but a recoverable one.
Here is a look at five ways United could fill in for Fernandes during this crucial stretch…
Donny van de Beek
Bringing in Donny van de Beek for a run of games is the most obvious option.
Van de Beek filled in for Fernandes in both Carabao Cup matches and took his chance, scoring against Brighton.
The Dutchman is desperate to show what he can do and a first Premier League start is overdue.
Juan Mata has created eight chances in two matches this season in the Carabao Cup.
United could plug him into Fernandes’ role and expect him to deliver.
Mata is under appreciated at United and could be looking for this kind of opportunity to remind Solskjaer that he can still perform at Premier League level.
Injury or a situation like this is the only realistic way Jesse Lingard will get into the United team at moment.
With starting opportunities rare for him, Lingard will want to do everything in his power to make the most of any game time coming his way.
The 27-year-old is experienced in big games and Solskjaer and his teammates will feel he can be trusted if need be.
With competition for places intense in midfield, United could move Paul Pogba further forward into an attacking role.
One of the criticisms of Pogba’s game lately is that he has been deployed too deep and is not making an impact in the final third.
United could experiment by giving him freedom to attack in Fernandes’ role, with Van de Beek, Fred, McTominay and Matic competing for the two spots behind him.
If United want a wildcard to throw into the mix then teenager Hannibal Mejbri could provide an element of surprise.
Mejbri has been one of the under-23 team’s outstanding players this season and there are big expectations on the 17-year-old.
While it may be seen as too early for Mejbri right now, with the likes of Mata, Lingard and Van de Beek desperate for games, if Fernandes is out for 4-5 games and the more senior players don’t perform, then this is an option for Solskjaer to mix it up.
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