Paul Pogba was the surprise starter for Manchester United at right wing against Newcastle.
Pogba actually did reasonably well in the role and nearly scored the winner. But his talents were also missed in the centre of midfield.
It was yet another illustration of United picking a player out of position to try and plug a gap on the right side. This is a problem which has existed for several years now.
Former United captain Gary Neville has picked up on it. He told Sky Sports that the balance of the team is completely off, supported by a statistic which claims United’s right-sided starting players have scored just 10 goals in two seasons from the position, compared to 21 from the left and 21 from the central striker.
Neville said: “If you asked him (Pogba) where he wanted to play in any of those front six positions, that would be the position he would like the least. It’s the one that Rashford would choose least. It’s the one that Van de Beek would choose least.”
“It’s a position that needs fixing. Not just because of the output and the goals, but because of the balance – the balance of the team is not right. It needs to be dealt with.”
In addition to the names mentioned, United have also tried Juan Mata in the role ever since he signed in 2014, with limited success. Mason Greenwood has had some bright moments there, but his long-term role is regarded to be as a striker.
A slow fix
United had chances to try and fix the position in successive summers. Both times Jadon Sancho was the top target and was unattainable.
While it is a positive that United did not spend big on a high priced alternative who flopped like Nicolas Pepe, there might have been a middle ground.
This past summer United spent on long term investments, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo. It will probably be a couple of seasons before we really see either at anything like the level we hope for on a consistent basis.
Reports of a possible move for Derby youngster Kaide Gordon, via Sky Sports, suggest United will continue to take a long term approach.
The shortcut solution is to buy a player able to contribute now. Leon Bailey of Bayer Leverkusen or Lucas Ocampos of Sevilla are two such options who have been previously linked to United, but neither appear to be lined up for moves this month.
Instead United will likely continue to get through this season with the options we have, and wait to see if Sancho is available in the summer again.
But Neville’s point stands, United need to deal with it and find a solution one way or another.
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