Red Devils Review #1 – The Pogba Dilemma

How does the £89 Million man fit back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side?

By Ciaran Coyle (@CiaranJCoyle)

Photo by Станислав Ведмидь Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Since Manchester United’s victory against Newcastle United on Boxing Day, Paul Pogba has been sidelined with an ankle injury with the Frenchman limited to just the eight appearances this season. 

Since then, there have been some changes to the team’s tactics and personnel which have resulted in a recent upturn in form with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men securing an 11-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

The addition of Bruno Fernandes has been heralded as a masterstroke by fans and pundits alike and his performances have been recognised by the Premier League. The 25-year-old was the Premier League Player of the Month award, the first player to win the award within the first month of joining the league. 

However, his addition has created a huge selection dilemma for Solskjaer, who will be deliberating whether to throw the Frenchman back into the mix at the first opportunity. But this would mean replacing midfielder Fred, who has been playing consistently at a high level for the best part of three months and has become an integral part of the side.  

Whilst the idea of a midfield trio that includes two players with the quality Fernandes and Pogba possess is mouth-watering, it would be somewhat unfair to replace Fred considering the dramatic improvements he has made to his game in the last four months or so which have seen him become one of United’s best performing players.  

The Brazilian has been a player who Solskjaer has been able to rely on to produce a high-quality performance in games against the ‘top six’ sides in the league this season, including Man of the Match performances against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

Some would put forward the suggestion of playing Fred, Pogba and Fernandes as a midfield three so that all parties are satisfied. However, this would disrupt the balance of a midfield three which on form could arguably be up there with the best the Premier League has to offer.

Whilst there would be an abundance of creativity, the lack of protection for the backline would be costly.  The deep-lying enforcer role, usually occupied by Nemanja Matic or Scott McTominay (who have also seen an upturn in form in recent week) is sometimes underappreciated by football fans. But it’s by no means a simple role to perform, with Pogba included in the names of players who struggle to perform it to a high level.

Whilst it’s looking increasingly more likely that we won’t see Pogba or any player in a United shirt for quite some time due to the Coronavirus outbreak, this dilemma will remain a cloud over Solskjaer’s head as long as he is still contracted to play for the club. 

There has been much speculation that this will be Pogba’s last season at Old Trafford with his comments before the start of the season stating he “would like a new challenge”. Whatever Solskjaer or Pogba decide to do between now and the start of the next season will play a critical part in Manchester United’s potential future success. 

For more football content check out Cameron Winstanley’s overview of Bruno Fernandes start to life at Manchester United.

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