The past season has brought upon different midfield situations at Manchester United. With different partnerships arising, different problems occurring and now there is a strong group of players in the midfield going into the next campaign. There are now different options to how the Manchester United midfield will look like next season.
How Will the Manchester United Midfield Look Like Next Season?
The Manchester United Midfield Throughout 2019/20
The first half of the season had seen a midfield change immediately. Paul Pogba was struck with an injury which left him out of action for the most part of the season. This led to the partnership of Fred and Scott McTominay blossoming. Yet, the midfield troubles were often in front of the pair, with both Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira unable to impress in the attacking midfield role.
It seemed like Nemanja Matic was going to leave the club in January after only making two Premier League starts in the first 19 matches of the season. However, after Scott McTominay got injured in December against Newcastle, Matic stepped in. The Serbian showed that he has still got something to offer, and as the only natural defensive midfielder in the first-team, he had his contract extended by another year.
The troubles were still in front of the pivot though. That was until the end of the January window where Sporting Lisbon star Bruno Fernandes joined the club. The Portuguese midfielder has slotted into the squad in front of Fred and Matic and played a vital part until the league stopped because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has three goals and three assists in nine appearances for the club. McTominay also made his way back from injury and suddenly, the midfield looked much stronger than it did a few months prior.
Options for next season
Can Fernandes and Pogba play together?
With the signing of Fernandes and the return of Pogba and McTominay, the midfield at United suddenly looks like the strongest area on the pitch for the side – there are many options for next season.
It seems obvious that Bruno Fernandes will have a starting place in the side next year; his leadership and quality puts him a level above most of Manchester United’s current players. Yet, with Pogba looking more and more likely to stay at Old Trafford next season – can both Fernandes and Pogba play in the same XI?
The short answer is yes they could, and they probably will. The real question lies on who will be the third man in the midfield?
Although Fred has had a stellar season with the Red Devils, there is doubt that he could operate as the sole six and rein in his ball hassling and be more defensively orientated. Even if the Brazilian could alter his game, it would take one of his strongest assets away in his ball hassling.
Instead, Fred will likely be a rotation option for both Fernandes and Pogba. There will definitely be certain games where taking out the flair and creativity of either Pogba or Fernandes and bringing Fred with his tenacity will be a good tactical move. Fred will probably have less of a part to play next season. However, he will still be an important piece in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s midfield arsenal.
Matic is the typical model that would be best suited behind Pogba and Fernandes as a sole six. Even though he is clearly past his best, Matic can still offer the best protection to the back four. Shown by the six cleans sheets United have in Matic’s nine appearances in the Premier League since late December.
Matic is the most natural option to play in the holding role. However, he has already shown before that he can tire when playing too often in the team. He is coming up 32 years old in August and will likely need rotation throughout the season.
McTominay has become a great asset in the midfield and was greatly missed when he was injured. The Scotsman has not lost against the ‘big six’ in 13 appearances – an impressive feat.
Where his position is in the midfield can be up for debate. He is a solid box-to-box midfielder but showed he could be disciplined when next to Fred. However, whether he was a real success in the disciplined role can be argued. United only kept two clean sheets in the Premier League before McTominay became injured.
However, while only being 23, McTominay can still learn and adapt – that is what I expect to happen. Solskjaer will likely deploy the academy product in the deeper role, expecting for him to learn from Matic who rates McTominay very highly.
Matic said in an episode of ‘Box to box’:
“I think he will be a very important player for Manchester United in the next 10 years or more. He is the kind of player and person that you always want to have in the changing room.”
It seems like it makes the most sense for the club at the moment to attempt to mould McTominay into a sole 6 but it is not definite that it will be a successful move.
What Will the Manchester United Midfield Look Like Next Season?
There will definitely be experimenting within the Manchester United midfield next season. A midfield of Matic – Pogba – Fernades is what would work the most with Pogba and Fernandes both starting. Matic gives both of them the defensive covering in the middle.
However, a Manchester United midfield of either McTominay – Fred – Fernandes/Pogba or McTominay – Pogba – Fernandes seems likely to occur as well as McTominay could slowly begin to adapt to playing as a lone 6.
It will a tough decision what the midfield should be in the bigger games. While Fred and McTominay had such success in these games earlier in the season, the stability of Matic and the creativity of both Fernandes and Pogba could break this big-game partnership – but you never know.
I have not even considered midfield signings, which are a big possibility this summer. Both Jack Grealish and Declan Rice have had rumours linking them to a move to Old Trafford. This would only strengthen the midfield further. Rice seems like a more reliable option to succeed Matic as a lone 6 than McTominay. While Grealish would push both wingers and midfielders with his versatility.
Whether midfield signings come in or not, the Manchester United midfield is in good shape for the upcoming campaign. The way that their midfield line-up and change throughout the 2020/21 campaign will definitely be interesting.
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