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Manchester United can demonstrate Bruno Fernandes’ right with a new alternative system: Dominic Booth

Bruno Fernandes makes no mistake.

Even off the pitch, everything that touches the Manchester United director seems to turn gold.

Speaking with Sky Sports on the Brighton court, after yet another man in the game’s performance in which he scored two excellent goals – one of which was a fierce volley to counter a squalid United – Fernandes counterattack was full of modesty and class.

The temptation right now when it comes to United is to turn everything around Fernandes’ collaboration with Paul Pogba. After Pogba had scored Fernandes’ first goal in a 3-0 win over Brighton at the Amex stadium, that midfield board was inevitably again the crux of the interviewer’s question.

Fernandes’ response, however, spoke at length about his team-centered mentality and suggested why he is brilliant in his new club.

“Paul is a fantastic player but I don’t want to talk too much about me and Paul because he’s not fair to other teammates,” he said. “I think Paul thinks the same way. We are really happy to play together, but I’m happy to play with everyone.

“Paul has such good qualities and we know it is so important to us, I think we can combine together, we have qualities and we can play together, but we know we have some teammates who can do very well when we are out.

“It’s not fair to just talk about me and Paul. Fred and Scotty [McTominay] did a great job before the season ended, Nemanja [Matic] he’s a boy who is doing very well and we have Andreas [Pereira], Jesse [Lingard] and Juan [Mata] who can play number 10 and have such good qualities. “

Perhaps the interviewer, or indeed many who watch United fans, have not purchased it entirely. Most likely the focus will remain on Pogba and Fernandes, who have undoubtedly improved the engine room of this thriving United team.

Fernandes ended up repeating himself, as if insisting on the point, really believing what he was saying. “It’s not fair to talk about me and Paul, we’re a team,” he said. “They push us to do better, it’s about teamwork.”

Nemanja Matic’s performances in recent weeks have certainly shown that Fernandes is right. While Pogba and Fernandes took the headlines, the Serbian international stood up behind them, keeping things simple while providing the safety net that encourages such prodigious creative talents.



United have two other similar players, who are currently forced to sit on the bench. Fernandes mentioned them: Fred and Scott McTominay. Despite being among United’s most consistent players over the 2019/20 season, the duo has been sidelined since the restart. In some extreme corners of the united online community, they have been completely erased.

But the couple want be needed soon. There will be games around the corner where United needs extra legs in midfield. Okay, Fred and McTominay were sloppy when they started against Tottenham together, but it’s not fair to judge them for that 60-minute performance in the first return game after a three-month hiatus. Few found fluency from the beginning.

Perhaps a system incorporating Fernandes, Pogba and two other more defense-oriented midfielders should be experienced as an alternative to the 4-2-3-1 that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer currently favors.

There will be times when higher level midfields try to expose Fernandes and Pogba from a defensive point of view and Matic – however good he is – will not be able to do it alone.

A diamond system, with Fred or McTominay on one side and Pogba on the other, should work well. It would however allow two of Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to line up as they attack filling the midfield with bodies that make it difficult for opponents to take down United.

Solskjaer may also feel that Pogba or Fernandes will need to rest from time to time, in which case Fred or McTominay might come in, with Pogba versatile enough to play deeper or as No.10 if necessary.

Fernandes’ excellent start to United came without Pogba on the sides. In reality it was Fred who initially seemed the ideal sheet for him in midfield. Now United fans have been happy to see the two names that capture the title shine on the same team.

But Fernandes is always right. United has other options and soon the time will come for Solskjaer to free them again.

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