Manchester United must find out if Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba can play together

Manchester United have to find the right combination in midfield. (Photo by Matt Childs/ Pool via Getty Images)
Manchester United have to find the right combination in midfield. (Photo by Matt Childs/ Pool via Getty Images) /

Paul Pogba’s insertion into the match rescued a point for Manchester United at Tottenham, but can he really work with Bruno Fernandes?

Manchester United’s top priority for the rest of the season is to secure Champions League football for the 2020-21 campaign. A close second is figuring out whether or not Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba can work together in a starting midfield.

The results at Tottenham on Friday evening were encouraging. Pogba came on as a second-half substitute and drew a crucial penalty that allowed United to earn a draw. Both Fernandes and Pogba were able to create quality scoring chances in the second half against Spurs.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the two players will fit together in the same midfield. Fernandes is a clear No. 10. Moving him anywhere else would greatly reduce his effectiveness. That will force United to find another spot for Pogba in their starting XI.

The French midfielder’s best work has come when playing on the flank in a midfield three. United aren’t going to switch to that formation because it would put too much defensive responsibility on Fernandes’ shoulders. Pogba is much more difficult to fit into a 4-2-3-1 setup when he can’t operate as a No. 10.

Pogba is a terrific athlete but he lacks the pace to play on the wing alongside Fernandes. United will leave those spots to quicker players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Pogba can only work in the same midfield with Fernandes if he’s willing to operate in the club’s double-pivot.

The challenge with playing Pogba in that spot is that he wants to go forward with the ball far more than the average defensive midfielder. In fairness, that’s a big part of what makes him such a special player. United shouldn’t play him in that spot and take away one of the things that makes him so dynamic.

The solution for the club is to find a defensive midfielder who is content to sit home and shield the back four in his absence. It’s unclear whether Fred or Scot McTominay have the sort of mental disciple required to fill that role. If United want to fit Fernandes and Pogba together in the same midfield they’ll have to find a defensive midfielder ready to do the dirty work required to balance things out.

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The ultimate truth is that Manchester United can find a way to play Fernandes and Pogba in the same midfield if they want to fit the rest of their starting XI around their strengths and weaknesses. The pair might not fit like a glove, but their star power makes putting them to get a priority for United.