Paul Pogba is injured. Unfortunately, we are unable to cancel the football while he recovers, so Manchester United must instead find a way to replace him in the starting XI. José Mourinho feels like he has the players to compensate for the midfielder’s absence:
“Squads are for this, squads are for injuries, squads are for suspensions. We don't cry with injuries. So, if no Paul for Sunday, we have Herrera, we have Carrick, we have Fellaini and we have Matić.”
So how exactly should United do this? Pogba will likely be absent for league games against Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace, next Wednesday's League Cup third-round tie with Burton and the Champions League trip to CSKA Moscow. He also faces a race to be fit in time for the trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on October 14th. Some of those matches will require different tactical approaches, and it’s unlikely that the same midfield will be in place for all of those fixtures. That said, what do you think should be the default solution to a Pogba-less team? Take a look at the potential options, and vote below.
Inserting Ander Herrera into Pogba’s place is perhaps the simplest and most likely solution. Of United’s available midfielders, Herrera is the closest to Pogba in terms of mobility and passing range. Herrera has spent the last year learning to play as a holding midfielder, however, and will need to re-adjust to a box-to-box role quickly if he is to replicate what Pogba brings to the team.
More than once last season, Mourinho referred to Marouane Fellaini as Pogba’s “natural replacement.” That statement was largely seen as laughable at the time, but is decidedly less so now. For all Fellaini’s limitations, he put in a man of the match performance after coming on against Basel on Tuesday. He is in the best form of his United career, and has the trust and confidence of the manager. He lacks Herrera’s technical skill, but makes up for it somewhat with his attacking threat and newfound tactical discipline.
The biggest drawback to Fellaini’s inclusion is that he has shown his best form as an effective option off the bench. Starting matches - particularly those like United have coming up, in which they’ll be expected to dominate possession - is a totally different task.
Herrera and Fellaini (4-3-3)
If neither Herrera nor Fellaini are ideal replacements for Pogba, then one solution is to play them both. Making up for Pogba’s contribution by committee is not exactly a tantalizing solution, but it is a pragmatic one. Playing both Herrera and Fellaini ahead of Nemanja Matić creates a midfield that lacks magic, but one that certainly has solidity.
Drop Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan into midfield? Go full Guardiola and play Matić in midfield alone? Reanimate Michael Carrick’s corpse? If you have a better idea, let us know in the comments.
How should Manchester United replace Paul Pogba
This poll is closed
Herrera and Fellaini (4-3-3)