Manchester United midfielders Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could be a big success as a midfield partnership, as long as both players are willing to make sacrifices along the way, says former United midfielder Darren Fletcher. Fernandes has impressed ever since signing for the club in January, playing nine times and scoring three goals and four assists.
Pogba will need to step up to the plate for the remainder of the season after sitting out most of the season with ankle injuries, playing just eight times, scoring no goals but assisting twice. Both players are yet to play in the same team competitively, although they played together in a 2-1 defeat against West Bromwich Albion – a training match at Old Trafford.
United will be back in Premier League action next Friday as they travel to London to face Tottenham Hotspur at their new stadium, the first time United will have played there. Supporters of the club have been looking forward to seeing the pair line-up in midfield for United, with both considered to be two of the best players at the club.
Fletcher recently spoke on the United Podcast, saying that the prospect of the two players actually playing together this season and forming a partnership was an intriguing one, warning that they would need to adapt to each other. When asked if he thinks the duo will be able to work together in the centre of the pitch, Fletcher stated:
“Without doubt, of course. Great players can come together. Somebody might have to sacrifice a little bit of something – that’s part of being in a team, it’s not an individual sport.
“When you play with a certain midfield, whether it’s a midfield three, you adapt your game to complement each other.
“That’s what I had to do at United. I was in the team with lots of different midfielders, lots of combinations and, if a certain midfielder was playing, I would try to take up positions to allow him to benefit and he would do things to allow me to benefit.
“It’s all about being compatible and recognising the strengths of your fellow team-mates and how to get your best performance, but, ultimately, you might be sacrificing what you do best to allow someone else to excel, which helps the team win.”
United will need to take to the ground already in a running position to face Spurs in a week’s time. Dele Alli will be missing from the match as he has been suspended by the Football Association, but Harry Kane should be fit to face United with former manager, Jose Mourinho now in charge of Spurs. United will need to work hard for the important three points.
Speaking specifically about Fernandes, who arrived at the club from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the January transfer window, who has been a ray of sunlight in the team ever since his arrival, helping contribute to United 11 match unbeaten run, scoring 29 goals, conceding twice and keeping nine clean sheets. Fletcher said:
“I think he’s been fantastic. Listen, his ability has been there for everyone to see. For me, it’s been his personality and his attitude.
“He tries things, he tries difficult passes but, when he gives it away, it’s his reaction after he does it. It’s fantastic, his hunger to try and get the ball back. He doesn’t throw his arms up in the air or sulk and moan.
“He’s bossing people on the pitch, he’s taking responsibility. He’s looked like the epitome of a Manchester United player. He wants to be there, he wants the ball, he demands the ball.
“He’s seen Old Trafford as his theatre and he’s relishing it. He’s sort of been a breath of fresh air with personality more than anything, which is what you need to play for Manchester United. Ability is not enough.
“You need personality to play for Manchester United – and he epitomises it.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking forward to the resumption of the season with United still sitting in fifth place in the Premier League and seeking to finish in the top four to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. Of course, they have the change by also winning the UEFA Europa League this season but winning in the league will be the best opportunity to get what the club needs to achieve.