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How will Jose Mourinho get the best out of his midfield options this season?

Manchester United spent £65 million on the addition on Brazilian central midfielder Fred formerly of Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. The 25-year-old joins a selection of six other midfield options at Jose Mourinho’s disposal for this season and with this in mind Mourinho will have to try very hard to get the best out of all of them. Whilst the multitude of options gives some much-needed squad depth in that position it can also pose problems with trying to keep them all happy with the amount of game time that they get whilst also trying to maintain a consistency in performance.

Stability in midfield is crucial to a winning formula which will be difficult to achieve with the swapping and changing that may have to occur. United tend to favour a 4-3-3 formation which was demonstrated in their first game of the season with a 2-1 win over Leicester City on Friday night. The three across the middle was also a prominent feature of last season’s campaign after the Reds completed the signing of Nemanja Matic in the summer transfer window.

Paul Pogba was made captain for the first game and will most likely be one of the first names on every Mourinho team sheet but the other two positions will be hotly contested by the other six candidates. However, it will be difficult for Mourinho to drop the samba paring of Andreas Pereira and Fred that featured against the Foxes as they provided some much-needed flair and excitement to an otherwise slow midfield. However, last season Matic was one of the manager’s favourites and will most likely take Pereira’s place once he is back to full fitness.

However, this still leaves question marks over the likes of Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay and Marouane Fellaini and how they will fit into the side. Herrera in particular was very impressive last season with many key performances which were somewhat underappreciated by many. When he features Herrera is not afraid to take the ball deep in his own half from the back line and get the attack moving forward rather than sideways which was something that United lacked last season. Herrera may be able to provide Mourinho balance in the midfield with a player who can go box-to-box and be effective in both

Herrera may be able to provide Mourinho balance in the midfield with a player who can go box-to-box and be effective in both halves of the pitch. As for McTominay and Fellaini they may have to get used to appearances from the bench and performing when called upon them as they try to battle back into contention for a first team starting place.

It may also be in Mourinho’s best interests to use players who will suit to playing the opposition. This would allow for rotation of options within the midfield for a tactical purpose rather than on a performance basis. For example, next week’s clash on the south coast against Brighton and Hove Albion will be a difficult away test for United which may warrant some more stability in the midfield with the inclusion of some more defensive-minded players such as McTominay and Herrera.

Even though consistency is key it will be important for the manager to rotate throughout the course of the season with the different competitions and injuries which will undoubtedly be hurdles to be crossed.  Mourinho is the type of manager that he is will be eagerly wanting to establish his best combination to be his go-to men for the whole of the season but will also be looking for the players who are not his first choices to make an impact when they are called upon. However, there is no doubt that the squad depth at Manchester United will make their midfield one of the strongest in the league.

Written by Ciaran Coyle

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