Man United and Solskjaer's midfield dilemma
Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday, after they failed to capitalise on a dominant display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
United were much more impressive in the second half, when Paul Pogba was introduced instead of the much more defensive Fred.
Pogba won the decisive penalty that earned United the draw, and put in a very formidable performance on his first game back in the squad since Boxing Day.
However, this raises a dilemma for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is he going to play in midfield?
Realistically, United have a choice of five starting central midfielders in Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay.
Paul Pogba has always been a controversial figure, yet most of the controversy rests on his agent, Mino Raiola, who is known for disrupting teams and fighting for bigger contracts.
Pogba has been inconsistent throughout his whole United career, yet when he is focused on actually performing, he has starred and made the game his own. When fit, starting Pogba is a no brainer.
Fernandes is the other player that is almost certain to start, given the immense transfer fee that United paid for him in January, and the massive amounts of creativity that he gives the team up front.
In his first ten appearances for United so far, Fernandes has scored four and provided four assists, and whilst most of his goals have come from penalties, his overall influence on the side has been remarkable.
Matic has had a bit of a resurgence in his United career ever since his services were needed due to injuries earlier on in the season.
The Serbian has impressed when deployed in the midfield, showing a great amount of experience. Whilst he attracted interest from the likes of Inter and Milan, Matic still kept his head down and worked hard for United, earning him a one-year extension to his current contract. It was his pass that set United free to attack and eventually Pogba winning the penalty.
The biggest surprise of the season was Fred, who has improved drastically since last season, when many deemed him to be one of the biggest flops ever signed for £50 million.
The Brazilian has proven to be very consistent in a team that has suffered from several inconsistencies throughout the season, being a defensively astute midfielder whilst also linking the defence with the attack.
Fred has also popped up with some goals in the Europa League, scoring twice and providing four assists in six Europa League games.
McTominay is possibly the one that would have to miss out from the starting eleven now that Pogba is back. The Scotsman has been very consistent ever since making his United debut back in 2017, and has proven to be very comfortable in midfield despite his relatively young age.
McTominay has also been extremely productive going forward, having four goals in the Premier League and also grabbing an assist. Considering that he has had a season plagued by injuries, this is still a very impressive return.
This leaves Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard, who are all way down in the pecking order for different reasons. Mata is ageing and slowing down, yet could be useful in some cup competitions. Whilst Pereira shows signs of quality, he simply isn't good enough to start for United, possibly only being utilised in cup competitions as well. Lingard is simply not good enough, and his age along with his wages are a clear sign to United that they should get rid of him.
So what should United's midfield look like? Whilst Pogba and Fernandes are both crucial to the team, fitting them into the same side is a tough ask considering their relatively similar play styles. But if Solskjaer was to fit them into the same side, that would leave only one place left in a three-man midfield. Realistically, Matic is much more of bit-part player than Fred and McTominay, with the latter two being much bigger contenders to start.
Fred would bring a sense of tenaciousness to the midfield, considering that he is much more adapt at defending and breaking down the opponents' counter attacks. McTominay on the other hand is much more of a box-to-box midfielder, being capable of both attacking and defending very well.
Whatever the case, it all depends on how Ole wants to utilise Pogba. Does he want him further forward or further back? We will just have to wait and see.