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Manchester United number tens; Who can play behind Romelu Lukaku?

Going into this season’s campaign, who will play behind the striker for Manchester United is anyone’s guess. At times last season, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all played there, however, none of them put in performances consistent enough to lock down the spot in the squad. Also, Andreas Pereira is returning from a season-long loan with Grenada, in which he played very well, although they were ultimately relegated to the second division in Spain.

One of the more proven options is Mata. The Spanish midfielder has been a proven player with both Chelsea and Manchester United and is now the clubs active leading goal scorer following the departure of Wayne Rooney to Everton. Mata is a natural number ten and is one of the best creators in the Premier League along with being a clinical finisher. However, at times, Mata seems to disappear in games, and Mourinho seemed to prefer to play him in a wider position.

Another candidate many United fans would like to see fill the number ten position is Mkhitaryan. He was effective to a devastating effect playing this position with Borussia Dortmund the season before he transferred to United and had flashes of brilliance in this past season. Some of his runs were simply mesmerising, and he won goal of the month more times than any other United player. However, some games his touch was completely off and his finishing was lacking. Like Mata, there were also games he disappeared from when playing behind the striker.

Lingard played behind the striker frequently as well last season, however, he failed to impress in many appearances. Other than a few strong showings in the Community Shield and League Cup finals, Lingard’s appearances were mostly disappointing. This is not to say he can’t be a great squad player for United in this coming season, however, they have too many better attacking options for Lingard to play there week in and week out.

One more player who played behind the striker on a couple of occasions was Fellaini. Although many fans may disagree with me on this, I believe Fellaini can make a decent number 10 in the right situations. Against more physical teams, his hold-up play can be effective and used to start counter attacks. However, that by no means he should start on a regular basis. Against teams where United need to move the ball quickly, Fellaini is just about the worst option there is. So, when the situation is right, he can be used effectively, however, there are many times where he should not be anywhere near the starting eleven.

Pereira is a player some United fans may have forgotten, but after an accomplished season with Grenada in Spain, he has seen first team football consistently and would be able to contribute to United at the number ten. However, he was used more in a box to box midfielder role for Grenada and was effective there. To get a more definite idea on whether he can play there will take a long look at his preseason performances should he get opportunities there.

Finally, Pogba is a possible option. The Frenchman has the creativity and scoring impetus to do well, but in my opinion, he is more effective from deep. He has a unique ability to play fantastic long balls as well as hit terrific long shots, so he can be more impactful in a match when coming from deep. Also, his ability to keep the ball is fantastic, meaning him being deeper would get him on the ball more and allow United to keep more possession.

There is no clear option for United to play number ten, however, in my opinion, it will ultimately come down to Mata or Mkhitaryan to make the spot theirs at the start of this upcoming season.

Written by Andrew McGowan

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