Bruno Fernandes & Paul Pogba: The Different Possibilities and Styles the Man Utd Midfield Duo Could Be Used in

Adam Aladay
Manchester United v Club Brugge - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg
Manchester United v Club Brugge - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Things were actually beginning to look quite good for Manchester United and their fans before play was halted due to the coronavirus.

United had gone 11 matches without defeat in all competitions prior to the enforced break. While these results were impressive from a team perspective, it was new arrival Bruno Fernandes who has been the driving force.

The 'Portuguese magnifico' required absolutely no time to settle into his new home, chipping in with three goals and four assists in his first nine appearances for the club. But statistics aside, it is Fernandes' overall attitude and desire that has also been key to United's run prior to play being halted.

Bruno Fernandes - Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes - Manchester United / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Despite his hugely positive impact on and off the field since his arrival, he has been unable to play alongside Paul Pogba thus far as the former Juventus man has struggled with injuries this season. But fans were recently treated to their first sighting of Fernandes and Pogba training together ahead of the possible resumption of the 2019/20 Premier League season.

A day doesn't go by without Pogba being linked with a move away from the club, but while his future may be uncertain, United fans are eagerly waiting to see what kind of partnership Pogba and Fernandes can strike up for the remainder of the season and potentially beyond.

Both players possess different qualities and together they could pose real problems for any side. But what system would best suit them?

Well, back before the postponement of all football, Bruno lined up in midfield for his new club in a few different formations. On his debut against Wolves, he operated in a slightly deeper midfield role, but was eventually moved up into attacking midfield - where he has continued to operate since.

In the bigger games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has preferred to go with three at the back, with two slightly deeper midfielders behind Fernandes. Ahead of the Portugal international would be two strikers who would split to provide width, allowing Fernandes to push forward and act as a 'false nine' at times.

While Fernandes has played as the 'one' creator in a 3-4-1-2 formation in the bigger games since his arrival, he has also been deployed as the attacking midfielder in a more conventional set-up with four at the back in the other games. But Solskjaer has varied his formations, either playing a 4-2-3-1 (most common), 4-3-1-2 or a flat 4-3-3.

Whatever the case, Fernandes has been the creative attacking midfielder, operating slightly further up the field than his fellow midfield teammates.

Bruno Fernandes - Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes - Manchester United / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As for Pogba, his best position has been the topic of much discussion in recent years, with the French World Cup winner more than capable of playing in a defensive role, an attacking role or as a box-to-box midfielder. It has often been said that Pogba is at his best when he isn't tasked with the responsibility of tracking back and needing to defend.

Considering the impressive performances of Scott McTominay, Fred and even Nemanja Matic, it is exciting for United fans to think that they can now add Pogba into the mix again. However, Solskjaer has decisions to make regarding what formation - especially in midfield - best suits his starting lineup.

The most logical formation for Solskjaer to utilise would be a 4-3-3. In this, McTominay would likely be the man to play in the defensive midfield role, while Pogba and Fernandes operate slightly higher up on either side. Both would have the chance to get forward and do what they do best, and equally they would both be responsible for getting back and supporting McTominay to ensure he isn't overrun.

Paul Pogba - Manchester United
Paul Pogba - Manchester United / Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Pogba has the ability to ping a cross-field pass with his eyes closed, while he also specialises in his late runs into the box - where he is a threat both on the ground and aerially. This 4-3-3 formation would allow him to do this. As for Bruno, in this formation, he would also be allowed to dictate the game with his passing, while the runs made from the wingers would allow the midfielder to play his eye-of-the-needle passes to get in behind defences.

Within this formation, balance is key and, as a result, Pogba and Fernandes would need to constantly communicate to discuss who can go forward and who should stay back and support the defence.

Alternatively, a 4-2-3-1 system could be utilised, with one of either Pogba or Bruno dropping a little deeper and playing alongside the other more defensive midfielder. Pogba has been asked to play this position before, but there is more of a responsibility to defend here which, of course, would limit his or Fernandes' ability to make an impact offensively.

However, Fernandes has also played a similar role during his career and a solution could be to alternate during games to give both players the freedom they need to shine. It isn't a rigid system and the interchanging of positions could cause even greater havoc to their opponents.

Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - Manchester United
Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - Manchester United / Michael Regan/Getty Images

As for the bigger games, Solskjaer can continue to stick to his three (or five) at the back system which has produced results. Once again, similar to the attack, rotation and fluidity will be key as Pogba and Fernandes can interchange, with one player moving slightly further up the field to create the openings while the other dictates play from deep.

What Manchester United have when they line up with two midfielders in Pogba and Fernandes along with a third (most probably McTominay) is a midfield that's capable of carving open a defence at will. The likes of Anthony Martial have already begun reaping the rewards since Fernandes' arrival, while Marcus Rashford would also thrive with the creativity and vision of those behind him.

The standard 4-3-3 system would be the most logical for Solskjaer to use in the majority of games as it best suits all players, while it also builds the team around the best players - Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford and Martial. It also allows for fluidity, encouraging Fernandes and Pogba to both not feel restricted within their roles.

Creativity, vision, understanding and world class talent, United now have a midfield that will once again be feared.

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