Rio Ferdinand believes that Jose Mourinho has finally found his perfect midfield combination at Manchester United at the start of his third season at the club.
Mourinho has been trying various ways of shaping his midfield to get the best out of star man Paul Pogba, but also to protect his defence, which is an obvious vulnerability in the side.
The Reds have had a mixed start to the season. Though they have two consecutive victories under their belt now, they suffered two successive defeats in August, to Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur, and those two losses could be attributed to the side’s weak defence.
Against Burnley and then Watford, Mourinho managed to protect that defence with a strong midfield that maintained its creative presence as well. It was made up of Pogba, Nemanja Matic and a deep Marouane Fellaini.
“For a game like this, 100% and it’s been proven,” Ferdinand claimed, when questioned whether that three-man midfield was the best for United and Mourinho.
“Burnley away, they played very well. Fellaini was good in that game as well. Today he was man of the match for Manchester United.
“I think today the balance in that midfield looked very good against this type of opposition away from home.
“It remains to be seen if that type of combination that you’ll see against a top-six team in terms of Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
“This time I thought it was a very good choice from the manager.”
Ferdinand is correct to acknowledge that it might not prove as successful against the bigger sides. But Mourinho has managed to get the best out of Pogba in the last couple of games, and the same is true for Fellaini.
The Belgian gets copious amounts of stick, and it’s often unfair, but sometimes it’s reasonable. Fellaini as an attacking midfield is a negative for Man United. It results in them playing long balls up the field and bypassing the qualities in midfield and on the wings.
But he has looked a different player in a deeper role, and fulfilled his duties to perfection. It’s not a role many thought he would look so accomplished in.