Scott McTominay and Fred haven’t started alongside one and other in Manchester United’s last three games, but they should be reunited for Sunday’s Manchester derby.
It was a welcome relief for Manchester United fans to see McTominay return to training at Carrington yesterday after missing the last two games with illness.
The last time ‘McFred’ partnership was in situ from the start of the match was in the 2-0 win against Brighton at Old Trafford.
As admirably as Nemanja Matic has played against Watford and his cameo at Atletico Madrid, United are going to need legs in the middle of the park to deal with City’s movement and ball-playing technicians.
The predicament for interim boss Ralf Rangnick will be where to play Paul Pogba.
The World Cup winner played from the left-hand side against Watford and there is every chance he could do the same at the Etihad.
That will mean that the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga and Jesse Lingard are all competing for one position given Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo’s likely involvement.
United’s interim boss cannot afford to play Pogba in a midfield two to fit another attacking player in the starting line-up.
If Pogba gets the nod over let’s say Fred then United could be in for a very difficult afternoon and could be cut to ribbons.
For all of Pogba’s qualities with the ball at his feet, this is going to be a game where Pep Guardiola’s side are likely to dominate possession.
United’s number six doesn’t have the same defensive discipline or awareness as the likes of Fred and McTominay.
There is also an argument to suggest he doesn’t have the same appetite or desire to put in the dirty work.
United’s back-to-back league wins at the Etihad to derail Guardiola’s City have been built on resilience and shutting off the space by keeping compact.
Fred and McTominay have started both of our last two successful visits to our noisy neighbours and their performances and defensive diligence will be vital in us securing a positive result once again.
It could well be that Rangnick starts Pogba from the bench and opts to go for pace on the counter which has been a hallmark of our victories in Guardiola’s backyard in recent years.
But if the German does include Pogba from the start it has to be with McTominay and Fred either beside or behind him.