Gary Neville says Fernandes and Pogba off ball work key to United future success

Manchester United played a 4-3-3 formation at Wolves on Sunday, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in central midfield.

United looked too open at times, but Gary Neville wants United to switch to that formation on a permanent basis.

Neville said on Webby and O’Neill’s YouTube channel he wants to see United mirror Manchester City and Liverpool’s formations and how solid they are out of possession.

There were rumours that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was planning to do that before the season started, but against Leeds and Southampton, United played a 4-2-3-1.

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“I’m interested to know whether we’ll persist with [Paul] Pogba and Bruno [Fernandes] in front of a Fred or a [Scott] McTominay,” said Neville. “That needs to work.

“Fernandes has to play off the front, either with one behind. Paul Pogba has got to be in the team. We didn’t half look open on Sunday. I want that to be more solid.

“It’s how City and Liverpool play, and I want us to be as solid without the ball in a 4-3-3 as we are with the two in front. We’ve got to get Pogba and Fernandes to work off the ball so we can play one defensive midfielder.

“I hope Solskjaer persists with it rather than just thinking ‘that was a bit ropey’ on Sunday.”

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McTominay could be the key

If United do play 4-3-3 more regularly, the sole holding midfielder will have to regularly play very well.

United decided not to buy one during the summer transfer window, despite Ruben Neves and Yves Bissouma being among the affordable and available options.

Fred struggled in that role on Sunday and Nemanja Matic does not have the legs to cover that much ground solo any more.

So it looks like United are waiting on Scott McTominay to come back from injury before that system really kicks into life.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.