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Manchester United need a Paul Pogba alternative to challenge Manchester City for the title

The Boot Room



Despite a brilliant start to the season, Manchester United‘s performances have lessened over the past month with the absence of midfielder Paul Pogba. It is evident that the club desperately need an alternative to the French superstar.

Manchester United started off the season in fine form collecting several wins by large 4-0 margins, playing the best football the club has played since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

The additions of Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku have worked well, starting off fantastically for the club, but at the heart of United’s short spell of dominance was Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman came under flack last season by many for what was perceived as poor performances, but what was noticed by some was that, when Pogba didn’t play, United’s performances in games declined.

The Red Devils simply couldn’t dominate the midfield. They didn’t have anybody else in the squad aside from Michael Carrick, who could control the game by recycling possession and driving forward with the ball. This was most evident in the Manchester derby, during which United’s were disjointed and struggled to string passing moves together.

This is similar, again, to what is happening at United right now and it is a bigger factor into United’s down turn in form. With Pogba out injured, United are using a midfield duo of Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Two good, but very similar players.

Both Matic and Herrera are defensive minded, neither great technically on the ball and neither capable of doing what Pogba does on the pitch. Likewise, Pogba could not carry out the same role as that of the Serbian or Spaniard.

Pogba is not defensively good. He lacks the positional discipline to do their jobs. Neither of these players are functionally capable of replacing the others in their team. However, since Paul Pogba has come down with an injury, United have deployed Ander Herrera in the ‘creative’ role.

The playmaker, the beating heart of the team. Herrera has been tasked with being the player to link the midfield with the attack, to provide the crucial service to the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku; to link up play with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata.

The issue here is that Herrera isn’t capable of playing in this role, he doesn’t have the flair of Pogba, nor does he have the technical ability to do it. It is the biggest factor behind Herrera’s disappointing form this season. He is not capable of performing to such a role.

Essentially, United have nobody capable of filling that role whenever Pogba is out with an injury, or when he needs to be rested to preserve energy and fitness. Matic and Herrera is a naturally defensive pairing. This can work if a player like Marouane Fellaini is available as you can by-pass the midfield by playing a long balls up to the Belgian.

However, Fellaini, despite his form, can be found out given his rather static movement off the ball and United desperately need to find a player who can do what Pogba does when he is on the pitch. They need a silky, creative, flair midfielder who can dictate the tempo, control the midfield and create the number of chances that the Frenchman does.

This could be where United being linked with Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, as reported by the Mirror, becomes interesting.

If the Old Trafford outfit were to buy the German, they could opt to switch from the usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 with Ozil being positioned in midfield with Herrera and Matic. This would give him the defensive pairing that would allow the complete freedom to do what he does best.

The Arsenal midfielder is comfortable on the ball. He is one of the best players in the Premier League at creating chances and, with the attacking options of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, he could certainly perform much better than he does currently at the Emirates Stadium.

While he isn’t the type of player who can dictate the tempo of the game or control the midfield, he does have all the technical abilities to be able to do so, it would merely take a slight adjustment for him to be able to perform to this role.

Meanwhile, another viable option would be Andreas Perreria, who is already a Manchester United player, currently on loan at Valencia.

Perreria has been impressive out on loan for the past two seasons. He is highly creative and processes great technical abilities for a player of his age. However, much like Ozil, he is a player who excels at playing in the number 10 role, but he is still young enough to be retrained into the role of an advanced central midfielder.

Regardless who United bring in, if they do, this isn’t anything new. For several years before Pogba returned to Old Trafford, it was apparent that United played significantly better if Michael Carrick was on the pitch. He was able to control the midfield and dictate the tempo of the game.

Throughout last season, there was plenty of talk regarding United’s need to replace the veteran Englishman with somebody younger and capable of playing more games. It is interesting, and perhaps even naive, that United didn’t opt to go for anybody to offer as an alternative for Pogba, for when he was ruled out with an injury.

Either way, it is hard to see United’s performances going back to how they were at the start of the season, until the France international returns. They are sorely missing his contribution and his driving presence.

Although United should be able to keep winning and keep within touching distance of Manchester City in the title race. They desperately need Pogba to return and it should become apparent to Jose Mourinho that he will need a proper alternative for him in midfield if he wants to compete with Pep Guardiola’s side for the league title.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.


Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts



Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts



West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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Manchester United

Fans react on Twitter to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic performance

Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the Lazio midfielder.

Mathew Nash



Photo: Getty Images

Serbia took on Costa Rica in the World Cup today and put in a solid performance, eventually coming away with a 1-0 win. Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner with a fantastic long-range free-kick.

But for Manchester United fans the man to watch was Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Tipped by The Boot Room as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup he has been linked with a move to United recently.

Valued at £87.5 million, did he live up to the hype?

The reaction to his performance was, in parts, mixed.

What was clear is that Milinkovic-Savic is a fantastic talent. Big and strong he rivals United midfielder and Serbia teammate Nemanja Matic for physicality.

But he is also extremely agile and nimble. Quick-footed, he often left Costa Rica players chasing shadows with some brilliant skill.

The highlight of his performance was perhaps an overhead kick attempt in the first-half. He leaped out of nowhere, defying his frame, before unleashing an acrobatic effort at Keylor Navas’ goal.

It was a good performance and one perhaps more indicative of potential than the finished article. Manchester United are undoubtedly in the running for the player but are not alone, with Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain all chasing the player.

His display v Costa Rica certainly showed why there is so much hype over a player who can do so many different jobs in midfield. Improvements still need to be made, but the raw talent is clearly there.

Here is how fans reacted on Twitter…

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