The United midfield: A masterclass in the making?
By Nilavro Ghosh
After months out of action, Paul Pogba finally returned to the pitch and the much hyped pairing with Bruno Fernandes seems to have delivered
An important factor in Manchester United’s unparalleled success during the Ferguson era was having a midfield general season after season. Be it Scholes, Keane or Carrick, the Red Devils had leaders in the middle of the park that could dictate the game no matter the opposition. For the first time, almost a decade after the Scotsman’s retirement, United seem to have not one, but two midfield maestros that possess that skill set and mentality.
The Devils faced Tottenham Hotspurs in their first game back in the Premier League and played out a dismal first 45 minutes. Spurs settled in quite well after the first few minutes with Mourinho’s tactics on full display. Costly errors from both defender Harry Maguire and goalkeeper David De Gea resulted in Steven Bergwijn netting the first goal of the game. Spurs sat back soon afterwards, allowing United to have the possession. Mourinho knew that his opponents were not very good at breaking down defensive teams and his players executed the plan to perfection.
The second half however was a different ball game. Manchester United pressed up the field much like their city neighbours and Spurs were visibly on the back foot. However, breaking them down was still proving to be a challenge.
Enter Paul Pogba. The Frenchman had been out of action since boxing day with an injury, and on his much anticipated return, he did not disappoint, neither did the much hyped partnership of him and Bruno Fernandes in the United midfield. The two linked up as smoothly as a knife glides on butter, stringing slick passes together and finally providing those crucial balls to Greenwood, Rashford and Martial.
United’s forwards looked rusty with their finishing, barring the magnificent save Hugo Lloris made off a Martial shot. That is when Pogba decided to take matters into his own hands. In the final quarter of the game, he danced pasted four Spurs players into the box from the right wing, and won a penalty off Eric Dier’s challenge from behind. His midfield partner Bruno Fernandes made no mistake from the spot to level the scores.
The Red Devils upped the ante after the goal not only in attack, but also in defence. The back line seemed fairly composed in dealing with the Tottenham attacks, played important passes up the field. All three of United’s strikers had very good chances to claim the points, the latest coming to the feet of Mason Greenwood in stoppage time which had Lloris on the edge.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has a lot to look forward to with this team for the remainder of the season as they aim for Champions League football, and with certain reinforcements in the summer transfer window, the Norwegian’s devils might just be a serious title contender next season.