Paul Pogba is terrific, but tough selection decisions lie ahead
For six years Manchester United have tried to work out the best midfield fit for Paul Pogba. The answer is still unclear.
Pogba has started the last three Manchester United games, and he has objectively been one of the best players during this spell.
He has scored once and had another goal disallowed, and some of his passing in the draw with Southampton was sublime, especially in the first half.
But with United failing to win any of the last three games, and Fred now eligible to return after being cleared from Covid, a decision lies ahead over the Frenchman.
Pogba and Fernandes dilemma
Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes are two of the most talented creative players in the Premier League. Getting both of them into the same side has the potential to destroy teams.
We saw this on the first day of the season against Leeds in which Fernandes struck a hat-trick, with Pogba providing two of the assists amid four he contributed that day.
United’s problem has been the lack of a top quality central midfielder. Fernandes stays too high up the pitch which leaves Pogba with too much defensive work to do, an area where he can be found short.
Neither Fred or Scott McTominay have the quality to effectively shield the defence with the work Pogba and Fernandes leave left to do.
This was why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferred to play both McTominay and Fred, shunting Pogba out to the left wing, to accomodate both him and Fernandes.
Ralf Rangnick is reluctant to take Pogba out of the central area and play him out wide, but unfortunately the make-up of United’s squad means the same dilemmas still remain.
Tonight we expect Fred to return to the side, possibly with both Fernandes and Pogba. It will be a gamble, but one United can afford to take, and must take, at home against Brighton, with a need to go for goals and try and blow the Seagulls away.
In more tricky away games against top teams, this is not a combination United would be recommended to try.
Indeed in games against Brentford and West Ham, the re-worked 4-3-3 with a deeper Fernandes alongside Fred and McTominay worked pretty well.
Pogba is likely to leave at the end of the season when his contract expires, and then the midfield will take a new shape. Good luck to him. United have to move on.
Before now and then, the dilemma persists. He is clearly one of United’s best players, but fitting him in is as difficult as ever.
The problem with a lack of balance with Fernandes is compounded by Cristiano Ronaldo, a striker who has been a passenger lately.
Pogba and Ronaldo have not linked up directly for a goal and assist combination since the number 7 returned to the club.
There is already a big question whether Fernandes and Ronaldo should be starting in the same side. Michael Carrick saw fit to start both in only one of the three matches he was in charge for.
Add Pogba into the mix, and United’s team takes on an even riskier vibe, with three luxury players in the side for who others need to work extra hard to accommodate. It just isn’t working.
United may get away with starting all three against Brighton tonight, but when the Champions League knockout ties against Atletico Madrid begin, Ralf Rangnick will have tough decisions to make.
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