The big question on all Manchester United fans lips ever since last summer.
Manchester United didn’t sign Bruno Fernandes until January 2020 but the links were persistent for at least 6 months prior which got Reds fans talking. Is he a replacement for Pogba or is he a new piece to build alongside Pogba?
Those questions were partly answered when Fernandes signed in January, although Pogba’s future beyond this season is still up in the air. Regardless of reason or even the plan long-term, Ole Gunnar Solskjær now has two top central midfielders among his options until the end of the campaign. But can they play in the same team?
Of course they can, with some adjustments.
Both players are at their best as the spare man in a three-man midfield, usually more so from the left. Both men are creative hubs and enjoy the ball to feet, bursting into space without the ball and breaking lines with it. Both players enjoy arriving late into the box to score goals and both have the ability to play a killer final pass to set their teammates up.
Of the two, it’s hard to argue against Paul Pogba being the superior player. But Ole doesn’t need to pit them against each other. He needs to figure out how best to pair them together and get the maximum he can from them both simultaneously.
The first option is to switch his formation and use something similar to Manchester City’s 4-3-3 shape. With Pogba and Bruno either side of a sitting midfielder, United could dominate possession a little bit more and offer creativity and a goal threat from midfield twice as much as normal. If Ole is insistent on keeping his 4-2-3-1 shape as he has been for much of the campaign, the preferred option would be Bruno in the No.10 role.
With Pogba and Matic, Fred or McTominay as a double-pivot, the club would be relying on Pogba’s creativity from a deeper position in a similar way to France. Bruno in the final third would provide more of a goal threat to United than Pogba would, as his numbers for Sporting showed over the last 18 months of his time there.
Pogba has a much better passing range than Fernandes so he’d be a lot better off in a deeper position, while the defensive side of the midfield game would be the main role of whoever their partner is in midfield. Matic was better since his return to the side following a spell out, while Fred has impressed for most of the season.
Despite Fred’s form though, I’d give the third midfield spot to Matic. A much more natural in the anchor man role, he would deal much better positionally with sometimes being on his own at the base of the midfield.
A diamond in midfield is another option for Solskjær, where the midfield can rotate and fill in different positions to help balance out in transition.
There are plenty of options for the pair of Pogba and Fernandes to play together and blossom. It is up to Ole Gunnar Solskjær to figure out which he wants to use but he should remember the it’s only a bad workman who blames his tools when he cannot get the job done.
Ole has all the tools at his disposal, now he needs to start building.