Manchester United impressed with an offensive midfield trio consisting of Fred, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes against Istanbul Basaksehir.
Here, the MEN’s football writers have their say on what United’s best midfield looks lke.
The problem with picking United’s best midfield is that the best midfield against West Brom is different to the best midfield against Liverpool.
We saw on Tuesday night the midfield United should be playing against sides where they are expected to dominate. Fred, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes are ideal in those games, where United will dominate the ball. Fred and Van de Beek offer enough protection against teams with limited attacking ambition and the Dutchman especially adds another creative element that allows United to dominate games.
The question is whether that set-up will work against Liverpool, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, etc. and the answer has to be no.
In those games Fred and Van de Beek will not offer enough protection to the back four and we’ve seen enough evidence that this United defence aren’t good in one-v-one situations. There will be plenty of those if there are spaces to exploit in midfield, as there were at the start of the season. In those games you probably have to take Van de Beek out for now and introduce Matic or McTominay.
If United improve their one-v-one defending, or buy a centre back who can excel in that area with plenty of recovery pace as well, such as Dayot Upamecano, then they may be able to go back to playing that more expansive midfield in the bigger games.
The answer is probably different depending on the opponent, but for most Premier League games I think the trio must be Scott McTominay, Fred and Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes is a shoo-in as the No.10, it’s just a question of who plays behind him. Nemanja Matic and Fred looked a little too defensive in the West Brom game and although Donny van de Beek was impressive in midweek, it was only against Istanbul Basaksehir.
Perhaps Van de Beek can be occasionally schooled in the role, but Fred and McTominay seem to complement each other nicely. One sits while the other presses forward and both are all-round midfielders who can tackle, run and pass to a high standard. Van de Beek and Matic would be my reserves, to come in when the game requires.
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Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Champions League with a 4-1 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandes’ brace set Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on course for a third successive win, with Marcus Rashford and Daniel James also on the scoresheet.
MEN Sport will bring you all the reaction and analysis from United’s win and the build up to the Southampton game this weekend. You can have it all delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter. Just put your email address in the sign-up box at the top of this article, or simply follow this link. It’s free and only takes a few seconds.
It says a lot that the two writers above me don’t even mention Paul Pogba in a discussion about United’s midfield.
During last season’s three-month hiatus there was plenty of excitement around the prospect of Pogba linking up with Bruno Fernandes upon the restart. They excelled with Nemanja Matic as the anchor but Pogba is yet to get going this season and his days at United look numbered, with his contract up in 2022.
Matic earned himself a new three-year deal with his resurgent form earlier this year but appears to have relaxed since putting pen to paper.
Scott McTominay and Fred form the sturdiest pivot and have to be play in the toughest games until the defence improves. United like to play on the counter in those games, so the lack of a deep-lying playmaker isn’t as much of an issue as it might be against more conservative opposition.
Fred, Van de Beek and Fernandes should line up against most teams and there can be parallels drawn between that trio and City’s three of Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in 2018.