Manchester United’s midfield has been an area of concern for many years but finally, the man in the dugout has a selection headache that every manager craves.
United finally replace old stars
The Red Devils have struggled to replace the likes of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick who once made their engine room the most feared in the country. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin are amongst the flawed stars who have all come and gone in recent years in a vain attempt to fill the void.
At long last United appears to have stumbled across a midfield stacked with talent and an abundance of options. Rather symptomatic of the club's chaotic nature in recent years the collection of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic has hardly been put together through careful planning and meticulous work in the transfer market, although Ed Woodward would probably try and tell you differently.
Fred and Matic’s turnaround in form was unpredicted by almost everyone. McTominay’s rise through the academy was far from a foregone conclusion, he was certainly no child star such as his predecessors of Ravel Morrison and Pogba and the French World Cup winners second spell at his boyhood club has been anything but plain sailing.
However, it has come about the club still deserves credit for trusting in their youth academy and sticking with players who have struggled at times in the Old Trafford spotlight. The capture of Fernandes, for what appears to be a bargain price, has catapulted the club forward in a way no one thought possible.
Fernandes and Pogba combination dangerous
The Portuguese playmaker converted the penalty at Tottenham Hotspurs on Friday night to bag his third Premier League goal in just six appearances. The former Sporting Lisbon man was the best player on the park as his first touch, speed of thought and eye for a pass was evidently a step above the rest of his teammates and opponents.
Pogba’s introduction after six months on the sidelines provided the spark that United needed. His quick feet bamboozled a weary Eric Dier and duped the England international into bundling the 27-year-old over inside the box to win United’s penalty.
The former Juventus man has only made eight Premier League appearances this season and his most recent was the only one since Fernandes’ January arrival. The combination of the two playmakers being on the field together has fans and pundits alike excited at the prospect with Alan Shearer describing the pairing as ‘dangerous.’
It was no coincidence that United finally found a way through a stubborn Spurs less than twenty minutes after their top two talents shared the same pitch. The pairing could be crucial to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top-four hopes this campaign and title chances in coming years but a resurgent Fred and ever-improving McTominay will also have their say.
The Old Trafford midfield could be set to rival the league's best
While a natural holding midfielder with youth on their side would still be a welcome addition, and Pogba’s future seemingly forever in doubt, for now, the centre of the park is certainly where United are strongest.
Ole has options for every occasion. Bruno and Pogba can carve open deep-lying defences, Fred provides the energy and link play from slightly deeper, McTominay can either stay disciplined and sit or become a box-to-box midfielder that carries a goal threat while Matic guards the defence diligently and has started passing forwards again.
Noisy Neighbours Manchester City have had a stranglehold in the centre of the park over all of their Premier League rivals in recent memory as Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Fernandinho and co. have dominated opponents in all departments. United’s victory over Pep Guardiola’s men back in March signalled a shift may be on the horizon with Fernandes’ improvisation and McTominay’s determination and unbreakable desire playing crucial parts in a 2-0 win. Add a fully firing Pogba into the mix and balance of power may be about to swing.