Manchester United’s Title Pursuit May Rely on the Form of Scott McTominay and Fred

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There has been a consensus by fans and media throughout the summer that Manchester United’s title race needs a top-quality holding-midfielder to become successful, but what if Scott McTominay and Fred continue their form?

Can ‘McFred’ Lead Manchester United to a Premier League Title?

Dominant Against Leeds United

Manchester United’s opening day drubbing of Leeds United has stoked excitement among the Old Trafford faithful of a first crowning as English champions since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. It displayed the strength in depth available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having performed so well without Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, Edinson Cavani, and Marcus Rashford.

The performances of Scott McTominay and Fred impressed Alan Shearer, who labelled the pair as ‘superb’ on Saturday night’s Match of the Day. The pair look set to play throughout United’s opening run of fixtures which doesn’t include any of the traditional top sides.

While the duo excelled in United’s first victory of the season, questions remain over the capacity of ‘McFred’ to be the heart of a Premier League-winning side.

The Growing Hole in the Squad

Solskjaer started with Fred and McTominay as holding midfielders 28 times last season, never veering from the pair in ‘big six’ clashes after United’s 6-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. The embarrassing defeat appeared to remove the trust he had in his back four to deal with the attack of United’s toughest opponents without the protection of a double pivot.

Reports suggest that the United boss is keen to implement a 4-3-3 shape which will see United set up more offensively and utilise Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the ‘number eight’ role. This setup would also be more inclusive for Donny van de Beek.

Both McTominay and Fred staked a claim as capable options in a more offensive role, offering forward bursts and quality forward passing – the pair started the move in all four of Manchester United’s goals on Saturday as they began their title pursuit in style.

Neither was an anchor for the side which could grant more freedom to those ahead of them. Both players have always been something in between Matic and a ‘number eight’ that Solskjaer wants to build his teams around. They are energetic box-to-box midfielders, but can’t cover for Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes on their own.

While the aforementioned Serbian is a shrewd operator, at 33-years-old he is waning physically. It’s unlikely he will be United’s answer across the season.

Trust Solskjaer to Fill the Gap in Manchester United’s Title Pursuit

Many criticisms have been levelled at ‘The Baby-faced Assassin’ since he took charge of United in 2018. One accusation that would be unwise to throw at the Norwegian, however, is his ability to build a balanced squad.

Solskjaer has made several transformative signings since arriving at Old Trafford. The signings of Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, and Edinson Cavani were excellent – bringing quality players into positions that were identified as weaknesses. There is little doubt the 48-year-old will have realised he is short in the holding-midfield role, too.

While there is a concern among United supporters of the lack of a true holding midfielder who will always start, the manager doesn’t seem to share this concern. He labelled any potential extra signings this window as a ‘bonus’.

He doesn’t share the concerns with some fans because United have a wealth of options. There won’t be a midfielder that plays every game. Sometimes McTominay and Fred will partner with each other, other times neither will play. They will play more defensive roles and more offensive roles depending on the game.

The pair won’t be the central figures of a Premier League winning side – they don’t need to be. That job is for the team’s superstars. They can serve as an option, like Matic, Van de Beek or Paul Pogba can in United’s midfield.

‘McFred’ can’t lead United to the title – the choice of McTominay and Fred is just another valuable option, which Solskjaer now has plenty of. Any more would be a bonus.

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