No Bruno: How Paul Pogba Could Fit Under Ralf Rangnick

Manchester United's Paul Pogba shakes hands with Bruno Fernandes before the match.

REUTERS/Phil Noble

Paul Pogba will be in the Manchester United squad against Middlesbrough, and could even start on Friday night.

The France international’s last appearance for United was against Atalanta in November under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After a three-month injury lay-off, he’s available for selection for the first time under Ralf Rangnick.

The interim boss, who didn’t get a new midfielder in the January transfer window, will certainly be delighted with the 28-year-old midfielder’s return to action. But as has been the case under previous managers, Rangnick will be faced with a tricky task of finding Pogba’s best position in his system.

Having switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Scott McTominay as a holding midfielder and two No. 8s, Rangnick will be able to offer Pogba freedom to operate in an advanced position. But that would mean one of Bruno Fernandes or Fred will be left out.

Fred has more or less cemented his place in Rangnick’s starting XI due to his ability to relentlessly press and win possession higher up the pitch. However, in recent matches, Fernandes has been asked to drop deeper and be available in different areas of the pitch – a role that the Frenchman can also play with equal effect.

It seems the only way to include Pogba in the same line up as Fernandes without leaving United’s midfield exposed is by letting him occupy the spot on the left flank ahead of Anthony Elanga and Marcus Rashford.

The FA Cup clash against Middlesbrough, however, offers the German tactician a good chance to experiment with the midfield trio of McTominay, Pogba, and Fernandes, as Fred has just returned from Brazil duty and might not be ready to start.