Mourinho’s experiments with his midfield selection continued over the weekend, but this time around, it failed despite recording a level of success just 5 days earlier. At the Stamford Bridge, Fellaini was retained alongside Herrera at the base of the midfield, with Pogba playing a more advanced and attacking role behind the striker, just like the 3 had been deployed against Liverpool.
The draw against the Reds at Anfield was seen as a welcome development to an extent, with both Herrera and Fellaini putting in a lot of defensive work. But they were missing against the Blues, with the former the worst culprit. Fellaini could only contribute 2 defensive actions and attempted no shot at goal, compared to Herrera’s 3 defensive actions and 50% pass accuracy.
In the club’s last Europa League game, Carrick was afforded the playing time, and his influence was felt in the emphatic victory over Fenerbahce. If there is someone who should be playing the most important games, it’s the club veteran and not the Belgian. Here are reasons why.
Carrick brings the best out in Pogba
Against Fenerbahce, we saw the Juventus Pogba in action. And that was made possible simply because of Michael Carrick’s presence. The world’s most expensive signing bagged 2 goals, created a chance and excelled alongside the 35-year-old veteran in a deep midfield of 2.
Carrick proved he is able to provide much-needed cover for the youngster, allowing him much freedom to attack while he plays him the right passes, hence serving as a catalyst Pogba needs to explode. The Fenerbahce game was Pogba’s best for Manchester United since his return, and Carrick turns out to be the Pirlo he needs to thrive.
If Manchester United want to make anything worthwhile of their campaign, they must get the best out of Pogba, and only one man is able to do that. Unfortunately, his name isn’t Fellaini. Carrick made 68 passes with an accuracy of 96%, of which 72% were forward passes in the game and was involved in 6 defensive actions. It speaks volume of his quality.
His experience is sorely needed
Carrick is no doubt past his prime and isn’t your most reliable option for 90 minutes every other matchday of the season, but he makes up for his inadequacies with his wealth of experience. And it’s something United badly need at this stage of their rebuilding.
He lacks the needed pace to compete with opposition midfielders, but his ability to retain possession, intercept the ball neatly and make pin-point passes and through balls makes him come out tops in his battles.
Fellaini offers none of that, and would rather get rough and into the referee’s books doing his defensive duties. While he has his own usefulness, he is better coming off the bench given the type of stability Carrick offers in the middle of the pack.
He is a better option
The results are evident for all to see, and Jose must give Carrick more than just 12 minutes of league action as his preferred option has failed him when he needed him most.
The Portuguese would do well playing an attacking pattern in his 4-2-3-1 formation, and it’s a combination of Carrick and Pogba in a 2-man midfield role or Herrera plus Carrick with Pogba playing as a number 10 that will do the job. The veteran is better off on the pitch than wasting his precious services away on the bench, and he definitely deserves to be ahead of Fellaini in the pecking order.