Manchester United’s midfield will have to cope with the absence of Fred for the next two games after the Brazilian football authorities trigged a Fifa rule preventing him from appearing (BBC Sport).
Players not released for an international window can be banned for five days after the window ends under the Fifa regulations.
The decision covers 10-14 September, which means United’s number 17 will miss the clash against Newcastle United on Saturday and our first Champions League match away to Young Boys on Tuesday.
What will Solskjaer do?
Fred’s absence could mean Scott McTominay’s recall is brought forward. He returned to training earlier this week. But the Norwegian does have other options if he doesn’t want to risk the Scot so soon after groin surgery.
Nemanja Matic or Donny van de Beek could be given a chance to play alongside Paul Pogba.
Van de Beek this week told Rio Ferdinand’s Five that he had the confidence to play such a role.
He said: “I like to play at 8 or 6, it’s fine. They know me because in Ajax I was playing number 10 a lot – but yeah, I can also play as a number 8 or 6.”
Based on what we have seen so far, it will most likely be Matic, given Solskjaer has a tendency to want at least one defensive-minded midfielder on the pitch.
Matic and Pogba have enjoyed success playing alongside each other before for United, especially in the latter half of the 2019/20 season.
Although it would be an extremely ultra attacking line-up, one alternative would be to try and drop Bruno Fernandes deeper and give Jesse Lingard a rare start after impressing for England.
United will expect to dominate possession against Newcastle, so playing someone like Matic instead of the likes of Lingard and van de Beek doesn’t really make sense.
Matic’s experience and legs could be saved for our Champions League match in Switzerland.
Short of options
With McTominay recovering, Fred suspended and Matic’s ability to get around the pitch not what it once was, our midfield options all of a sudden look a bit sparse.
James Garner was always going to go out on loan to gain vital first team experience, he couldn’t have just been kept for circumstances like these.
But it does highlight and support the need for United to make the defensive midfield position a priority to improve next summer whether Fred is in United’s midfield or not.
Prediction: Pogba and Matic are Solskjaer’s most likely go-to option. Van de Beek the more adventurous alternative.
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