Pogba and Fernandes
How Man Utd trained Pogba and Fernandes into a winning combination?

The midfield duo trained together for the first time on Tuesday, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must now work out how to fit both into his line-up.

Some Manchester United fans might have been forgiven for thinking the chances of seeing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes line up together for the Red Devils had gone away.

Pogba made just eight appearances for United all season after the early 2020 surgery postponed his return from an ankle injury that has sidelined him from September. Factor in the confusion surrounding the club’s long-term future, with Real Madrid and Juventus, apparently both keen on a player left on his deal for only one year, and some thought he ‘d played his final game for the club.

One positive to the suspension of the Premier League season has been that Pogba is now almost back to full fitness and likely to be available for the final throes of the campaign. That, in turn, offers up the opportunity for him and the new darling of Old Trafford, Fernandes, to play alongside one another.

United fans were offered a glimpse of what they have been waiting to see on Tuesday afternoon when pictures were released of Pogba and Fernandes training together at United’s Carrington base. January signing Fernandes – who has revitalized Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield – and World Cup-winner Pogba – the most talented player in the squad – provides the potential for a dream combination.

Some, including former United striker Dimitar Berbatov, have already questioned, however, whether the duo will be able to play together.

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“They’re similar players, both intelligent enough to think three steps ahead when they’re on the ball,” the Bulgarian legend told Betfair back in March. “Sometimes footballers are too similar to play together.”

Solskjaer, though, is confident he has an exciting new partnership at his disposal. “Good players can always play together, so definitely, they can – it’s a big yes,” the Norwegian told Sky Sports earlier this month.

United’s squad returned to training last week and has been placed in small groups of four of five as they adhere to the social distancing rules that have been in place around the Premier League. At first, the groups were selected randomly, but Tuesday offered Fernandes and Pogba an opportunity to work together properly for the first time.

After his first day of training back in January, Fernandes has inspired Carrington staff, and Portugal International has spoken of his enthusiasm for joining up with Pogba.

But when the time comes for the Premier League to return, Solskjaer will have a welcome selection headache and one he’ll hope will run into next season too, with Covid-19 ‘s impact on the transfer market making the likelihood of any club matching the United asking price unlikely for Pogba.

Former Sporting CP manager Carlos Carvalhal has warned against playing Fernandes solely as an attacking midfielder in a No.10 role, but it may prove the most sensible option should Solskjaer decide to play a diamond in midfield.

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In such a system, Pogba would likely play on the left-hand side, with either Fred or Scott McTominay on the right with Fernandes ahead of them providing the link between midfield and a front two of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Either McTominay or Fred could also be deployed in the deeper role, with Nemanja Matic providing depth in the position after an improved second half of the season.

Should Solskjaer want to deploy a more attacking formation, then a 4-3-3 with Pogba and Fernandes playing slightly different, but still creative, roles alongside the more defensively-minded McTominay or Fred could be the way to go.

Former Sporting CP manager Carlos Carvalhal has warned against playing Fernandes solely as an attacking midfielder in a No.10 role, but it may prove the most sensible option should Solskjaer decide to play a diamond in midfield.

Pogba would probably play on the left side in such a system, with either Fred or Scott McTominay on the right with Fernandes in front of them providing the link between midfield and a front two of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. It would also be possible to deploy either McTominay or Fred in a deeper role, with Nemanja Matic providing depth in the position after an improved second half of the season.

If Solskjaer decides to deploy a more offensive formation, then the way to go maybe a 4-3-3 with Pogba and Fernandes playing slightly different but still innovative positions alongside the more defensive-minded McTominay or Fred.

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