Man Utd’s midfield problem that ‘needs fixing’ amid Pogba alternatives concern

Gary Neville insists Manchester United must use the summer transfer window to address the “imbalance” in their midfield which “needs fixing”.

Of all the areas in United’s team which could do with reinforcements, many would argue it’s through the centre of the park where they are strongest.

However, Thursday night’s defeat to rivals Liverpool made it clear there are still gaps in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team which are continuing to cause them problems.

Paul Pogba started on the left of a 4-2-3-1 formation and largely underdelivered, while Roy Keane criticised the performance of Fred, who the ex-United skipper branded “sloppy” and “lazy”.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a decision to make on Paul Pogba’s role this summer

Solskjaer opted to leave the in-form Mason Greenwood on the bench in order to shoehorn Pogba into his side, but it didn’t pay off, and Neville feels it’s high time the United boss came to a conclusion.

“One of the issues Man Utd have is that when they pick Paul Pogba on the left it means Marcus Rashford has to go over to the right and the balance of the team fails – we’ve seen it too many times now,” Neville said. “It’s something that needs fixing.

Manchester United need that right-hand side option. And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to work out if Paul Pogba can play in the centre of midfield or not in big games.”

United briefly sparked into life at the introduction of Greenwood, who came on for Fred, allowing Pogba to drop back into a more natural central position.

As a result, Rashford was able to switch back over to the left-hand side where he immediately scored from, and Neville feels “It’s just obvious that the whole team are better” with that lineup.

The capabilities of Pogba still carry significant question marks though.

He struggled to keep up with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold all evening and gave away a critical foul which led to Liverpool’s second goal, during which Pogba had failed to mark Roberto Firmino properly.

The obvious answer would be to move him in field alongside Scott McTominay, but former United coach Rene Meulensteen explained why he believes that switch would not work either.

“He [Solskjaer] likes to play with two pivots in Fred and McTominay, Meulensteen told Stadium Astro. “The reason for that is to protect the back four but I think you need another midfield player in there that is more creative that can do a bit of both like Fernandinho at Manchester City, or Fabinho with Liverpool.

“Pogba creates an imbalance in the team because he has to play, he can’t play as one of the two pivots. Defensively people run off him so he doesn’t do his defensive job.

“You play him from the left OK you try to manufacture something there. I’m not sure. Maybe the best way is to say can we get some money from him and look at what we need.”

Jack Grealish has been linked with Man Utd
Jack Grealish has been linked with United in the event that Pogba leaves

Pogba’s contract situation may well force United to consider the option of moving him on this summer for a fee, rather than potentially lose him for nothing in 2022.

The club are keen to tie him down for the long term but the Frenchman has been coy about committing his future, leading to a possible standoff in the coming months if an extension cannot be agreed.

“I think with the stature of Pogba comes expectations. I don’t think overall he’s lived up to those for whatever reasons. So if I could I would cash-in on him and reshape the team,” Meulensteen added.

Asked who he would look to replace him with, he replied: “Declan Rice for me is a very young promising player, but playing for Man Utd is different playing week in week out. You need to be really coming up with the goods.

“I’m not too sure if he would be my pick there are other names touted around.

“A player like Grealish, he would have the DNA to play for Man Utd and the stature for it and he would have the ambition but it would change the outlook of the team. He is a ball hogger, he likes to dribble and create things for himself.”

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