What Should Manchester United Do To Manage Paul Pogba’s Absence?
When Manchester United announced Paul Pogba’s transfer for £89million, a lot of people said a lot of things. Some touted him as the ‘next big thing’, while others were just waiting for him to flop. Interestingly, the Frenchman managed to live up to both sets of expectations during his tenure at Old Trafford so far.
As the Red Devils finished in a disappointing 6th position last season, doubts over his capabilities only intensified further. Questions were raised over the true extent of his value addition to the club – until the arrival of Nemanja Matic this summer.
By signing Matic, Jose Mourinho successfully killed two birds with one stone. United desperately needed a quality deep-lying midfielder to ensure a seamless transition from attack to defence, and also to give Pogba more room to express himself.
His performances were limited last season mainly because the responsibility to guard the defence ate up his chances of going forward. With Matic assuming the role of the defensive midfielder, Pogba was given a leeway to play with.
Unfortunately for United, Pogba’s good run has come to an abrupt end. The midfielder pulled his hamstring in the 3-0 victory over FC Basel at Old Trafford, following which he missed three games across competitions for the club. However, with the midfielder set to remain out for a considerable chunk of time, the situation does look bleak.
So far in his absence, Mourinho has utilised the services of Marouane Fellaini. He deployed the Belgian against Everton and also during their intense away win at Southampton. While United won both their league games with Fellaini in the team, he is clearly not the best at it.
All this while, Fellaini was deployed more as a tactical option rather than an option as a player. As far as replacing Pogba goes, he may not be the best choice either. The former Juventus man is known for his industry and precision while Fellaini offers a completely different skill set.
Thus, the ideal choice for replacing Pogba, at this point, seems to be Ander Herrera. With Matic playing as the holding midfielder and either Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata playing in the No. 10 position, Ander Herrera should get a spot in the starting XI.
The Spaniard was declared the winner of the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for the 2016/17 season, and with good reasons. However, given United’s enviable squad depth, it isn’t a surprise that Herrera has been reduced to merely a solitary league start this season.
Having said that, this seems like the perfect chance to bring him back as a regular member of the first-team squad. To extract the best out of the 28-year-old, it is imperative that Mourinho plays him on a regular basis and places him in a position similar to that of Pogba’s.
Herrera isn’t as dynamic as Pogba but he is known for doing his duty diligently without getting into unnecessary situations, unlike Fellaini. The Spaniard is extremely versatile since he can attack, defend, play simple passes and look for the killer ball every now and then.
While Fellaini seems to be Mourinho’s preferred option to replace Pogba, one cannot deny that he made no impact whatsoever against Southampton, which could prompt the Portuguese manager to change his mind.
Arguably, it might be a tad bit unfair to judge Fellaini on the basis of one poor game but Fellaini is likely to have a harder time against bigger teams. That is where Herrera’s creativity could come in to play over the Belgian’s physicality, thus making him a seemingly better choice.