Manchester United prepare for their first game after the Coronavirus-enforced Premier League sabbatical and as luck would have it, it’s a pretty big one – former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown fine tactical approaches against this team in the past and with a strong pool to choose from this evening, there can be no hiding place.
All managers have had the benefit of an extra few months to consider how to get the best out of their current squad and most of them have the relief of some players who were not available prior to the lockdown.
Spurs, for example, now have Harry Kane back, and United will have Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford available.
On our podcast recently, former United defender Paul Parker spoke about Solskjaer’s midfield conundrum, and he believes that Paul Pogba should go straight back into the team.
Pogba has repeatedly been linked with a move away but the peculiarity of the situation, and the consequential financial difficulty presented to most clubs, means that any transfer feels unlikely in the short term.
“Because of the situation at the moment, there’s no choice, he (Pogba) has to be there,” Paul said. “So what you have is the chance to mix one of the best midfield players in the world and a player, Bruno Fernandes, who needs to go to the next level. He’s arrived to go to the next level. Bruno has taken to Manchester United incredibly. He’s become his own person, he’s been magnificent.”
“Put him with a World Cup winner and you look at it on paper and say it’s got to work. Both of them are high energy players. Both of them demand the ball all the time. They’ve got great ability. They’re going to want to outdo each other, I can remember being involved in something similar when I saw Paul Ince and Roy Keane play in the same team for a short time. It was an incredible midfield. Throw them in with Fred or Nemanja Matic – Fred who has been the most improved player and Matic who has got rid of all of those concerns that he was a Mourinho man – and you have a midfield who would scare any team.”
Most reports suggest that Solskjaer is indeed set to start Pogba and Rashford – and the Norwegian is a manager who likes to spring a tactical surprise, so United could well play a 3-4-1-2 or a 4-3-3.
The defence almost speaks for itself – Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw or Brandon Williams, with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire.
It is not unlikely Solskjaer would go with the experience of Matic. He may be tempted to go with the energy of Fred, or even Scott McTominay who you will recall scored that incredible goal against Manchester City. We believe that he will probably go for Matic, but the big question mark is whether or not Ole goes for a three-man defence.
In that scenario there are two likely ways forward, both of which are presented below : although knowing Ole, he probably has a trick or two up his sleeve! Which line-up is best? Who would you pick?