Manchester United signed Paul Pogba for a world record £89 million transfer from Juventus earlier this summer, and despite being banned from making his second club debut against Bournemouth in their first game in the new Premier League season, he started against Southampton almost a week later, lasting 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory, of which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals, one from the penalty spot. United look a much better team under Jose Mourinho than they did under Louis van Gaal for the last two seasons and David Moyes before that. The signings that Mourinho has made seem to have lifted clubs supporters and the players. With Pogba now back in the fray, the debate is why is the best option to play alongside him in midfield? Again Southampton last Friday, Marouane Fellaini partnered the Frenchman. Is he the best option, of should another player be given the chance?
Against Southampton Pogba covered much of the pitch, dominating in midfield. He maintained an 83% pass success rate, having four shots on goal; one on target, three off target, created two chances for his teammates, made 14 take ons, winning nine of them, won 25% of his tackles, 67% of his aerial duels, making four interceptions, one clearance, two blocks and also committing two fouls. As I stated before, Pogba player alongside Fellaini for the entirety of the match, which seemed to work well, but it could well be something that does not work in the future, depending on the opposition and the competition, of course.
The Belgian is a Marmite player at Manchester United, some love him, more hate him. Fellaini has something to offer and he has scored a few crucial goals in his United career, but he does not seem to be the player to offer Pogba the perfect partner all of the time. Jose Mourinho may already know this, but will retain him as a player based on what he can offer. Fellaini played better under Louis van Gaal than he did for David Moyes at United, and so far, Fellaini has played well under Mourinho, which may improve as time goes on – that is something we cannot judge at this moment in time. Against Southampton, Fellaini maintained United’s possession with his 85% success rate in passing, which is almost identical to Pogba. Fellaini had no shots on goal and did not create any chances for his teammates, but that is not what he offers, especially alongside a midfielder with the creativity and the license to go forward, like Pogba has. Fellaini may be Mourinho’s choice so far, but over the weeks, I am sure he will be testing out partners for the Frenchman.
The Frenchman has not started a competitive match for United so far this season, playing two minutes in the 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the FA Community Shield at Wembley earlier this month, and five minutes against Bournemouth in United’s Premier League opener – a match they won 3-1. Schneiderlin, after his performances at Southampton the season before last, was one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, putting in some great performances and not really making himself known for doing so, which seems to be the Frenchman’s method – humble and wants to get the job done, whether he is noticed or not. Providing Mourinho gives Schneiderlin the time on the pitch this season, which will be intrinsic to him getting his form back, he may be the main partner for Pogba and possible for years to come. United have many able midfielders, and in the current formation (4-2-3-1) getting all the midfielders to have a game may be tough. In a 4-3-3 formation, it might be better, but it could be a while before we see that adaptation on a more permanent basis at the club.
The former England midfielder may not have long left at the club, signing a new one-year deal in the summer and is now 35, so his playing days may soon come to an end. Carrick is a good midfielder and has done his bit for the club. He may be used to ease Schneiderlin into his role, or even Daley Blind, should United find a new defender to take his place, which may not happen this summer, but Blind is doing well in that position thus far. Carrick may play alongside Pogba at some stage this season, as for forming a partnership, it will be temporary so I don’t see Carrick and Pogba forming something permanent this season. United may keep him for another season, should the player want to, but he will eventually be fazed out in his playing role, going in whichever direction he feels he wants to head into, whether coaching and management or punditry like some of his former teammates have done.
The Spanish midfielder has been at the club for two years now and has not secured a place in the midfield, which could have been down to the playing style of Louis van Gaal’s United, or down to the player not knowing what position he wanted to play in within United’s midfield. Herrera is a tidy player when supported and has played all over the midfield, even in a right-wing position, so he seems to have done his bit on the pitch whilst playing for his club. This season under Mourinho, Herrera revealed that he has been given a special role in United’s midfield, playing a little deeper, which could be the manager getting his players ready for a formation change, possibly to 4-3-3, which would benefit United much better, but needs to be something that is done gradually, or it will not work as well as it could if eased in. Herrera and Pogba could make a good partnership, but in a 4-2-3-1 formation it may not work as well as it might in a 4-3-3 with Schneiderlin, or even Carrick. United are getting better, this era is very exciting and now to have all this midfield talent, which will be inspired with the clubs current additions, things do look good for the future.
The young Dutchman is a player that needed to be mentioned here, as at this moment in time, he will not be a player even considered this season, next season however, Fosu-Mensah could be part of Mourinho’s plans, as right now he does have a few things to learn. Many see him as a right-back because Louis van Gaal utilised him in that position last season, but midfield seems to be the position he may feature in for his club. Many see him as a player like Pogba, a tough tackler and a player that gives as much as he gets in his role. Against Tottenham Hotspur last season, Fosu-Mensah played as the right-back and did well, nullifying all threat on his side, but he received a knock and had to be replaced. United then conceded three quick fire goals, losing the match 3-0 after eight minutes of madness. It goes to show that at 18, Fosu-Mensah is already good enough and a season under the wing of Mourinho, learning what he needs to learn to become the player he wants to be, will benefit him. Imagine a midfield three of Pogba, Fosu-Mensah and Herrera! Just think that the three of them could do. It may happen, it may not, but it is certainly something to think about for the future, as only Mourinho and his players know for certain what the plans are, which makes it all the more exciting.
Obviously, United have many options to partner Pogba, just like they have a lot of options in the desired formation. United currently play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which seems to be adopted by many clubs in the Premier League, and beyond, this season. 4-3-3 seems to be the ideal formation for Pogba, and United should be building a team around the world’s most expensive player, who has to be the best midfielder at the club now, four years after he originally left for Juventus. FullTimeDEVILS had a debate about Pogba’s ideal midfield partner, giving some good opinions and something to think about. Pogba has played with some great players in his short career; Ravel Morrison at United’s Academy – at that time Morrison had the talent and Sir Alex Ferguson said he was the best he had ever seen at that age. At Juventus, Pogba has played alongside Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal to name a few, and with his national team, France, has played alongside Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kante and Yohan Cabaye in the European Championships anyway. The experience which has been passed into him will be one of the reasons he is one of the best midfielders in the world right now.
Who do you feel Pogba should be paired with in midfield, at the moment in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which may be the case at United for the foreseeable future?
— MUFC Latest News (@MUFCLatestnews) August 25, 2016