April 20, 2021

Man Utd

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Manchester United face transfer dilemma over Solskjaer’s favourite duo

4 min read

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might as well nickname Fred and Scott McTominay his ‘ghostbusters’.

When there is something weird and Manchester United don’t look good. Who does he call?

Fred and McTominay.

The unlikely little and large, Brazilian and Scottish, combination in the middle of United’s team are not always appreciated by some, but they are an ultra-reliable duo that Solskjaer falls back on whenever he needs consistency and steel in front of his defence.

Their selections in the United engine room for the Manchester City game were no surprise. Just like Solskjaer did in games earlier this season away at Newcastle and Everton — when he badly needed a result — he picked Fred and McTominay.

They have also become a staple of the big games under the Norwegian, valued for their energy and ability to break up play especially against possession-based teams like Pep Guardiola’s side. They thrived in two away wins at Paris Saint-Germain, they have done the same at the Etihad Stadium.

Many United fans rolled their eyes when both players misplaced a number of passes in the first half of Sunday’s Manchester derby, hurried into mistakes by Man City’s aggressive press, yet the job done by ‘McFred’ in the end was vital.

There aren’t many better judges of United midfielders than Paul Scholes and the former maestro himself was left lauding the tactical roles of Fred and McTominay after the 2-0 win over City.

“A big thing was getting the midfield right against Manchester City,” Scholes told Premier League Productions.



The unlikely little and large, Brazilian and Scottish, combination in the middle of United’s team are not always appreciated by some

“I think they did that, Fred and McTominay had a big job, but you could see how tight and compact they were, there was no space for City in there.

“Fred and McTominay won the ball and managed to break as well. It worked perfectly. City’s best players are obviously [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Ilkay] Gundogan, so if you stop them you go a long way to stopping City.

“You have to say they didn’t really have an influence on the game.

“They knew they had to keep compact, keep the middle area tight and the plan worked perfectly.”



Solskjaer relies on Fred in his United midfield

So that’s that. Fred and McTominay are here to stay. The automatic choices as United’s midfield pair in a 4-2-3-1, right?

Perhaps not. Because some supporters’ gripes about the duo are legitimate and their performances against teams lower down in the Premier League are often not what United want — or need.

Paul Pogba is often the man to replace either Fred or McTominay when United want to break down resilient defences. But with the Frenchman, United’s best lock-picking creative central midfielder, currently out injured, Donny van de Beek not yet in favour and Nemanja Matic too similar to the aforementioned duo, United have a problem.

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Henderson and McTominay celebrate at full-time

Manchester United secured a memorable 2-0 derby victory over Man City at the Etihad Stadium.

Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw scored the goals to clinch an unexpected, but empathic, victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops against the league leaders.

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That may well be exacerbated if and when Pogba departs in the summer, as expected, and should Van de Beek’s travails continue.

Many fans have expressed a desire to see the club sign a new central midfielder to play a Pogba-esque role in the middle of the park, someone who is an upgrade on Fred and McTominay — with even the most ardent fans of the duo admitting they have limitations.

That should certainly come into United’s thinking. But it could also test Solskjaer’s obvious loyalty to Fred and McTominay, who have never let him down, and without whom the United manager may not boast so many scalps of top teams.

United aren’t about to sell either player.

At the very least they ought to remain valuable squad players and will still probably come into the equation for shutting down big sides like City and big players like De Bruyne and Gundogan.

But to consider an upgrade on them, especially given the Pogba situation, would be smart management. United need someone else to call upon.

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