Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield selection dilemma for Liverpool

by Red Billy

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a difficult decision to make ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Anfield to play league champions Liverpool on Sunday.

The Red Devils went to the top of the Premier League on Tuesday night following a 1-0 win over Burnley which saw Paul Pogba win the Man of the Match award and score the winning goal.

His midfield partner Nemanja Matic also had a fantastic game and was arguably as influential as the Frenchman.

The duo’s fine form has given Solskjaer a selection dilemma for the Liverpool game, for which he would be expected by many to revert to the more hard-working and energetic pair of Scott McTominay and Fred.

‘Both partnerships … have different strengths and weaknesses,’ explains The Times’ Paul Hirst.

‘United have lost one of the six games in which Pogba and Matic have started together in a two, while McTominay and Fred’s loss rate is two in ten games.

‘The Fred and McTominay combination provides stability … they average 2.97 and 2.43 tackles per game, which is more than Pogba (1.76) and Matic (1.8).

‘Matic and Pogba are more effective when opposition teams sit back. Matic, who has the best passing accuracy of the quartet at 90.1 per cent, sits deep, allowing Pogba to venture forward, as he did against Burnley.

‘The problem for Solskjaer is that Liverpool are not like Burnley. They are relentless pressers, so if they played, Matic would not have time on the ball and Pogba would not be able to get forward as much.’

Hirst goes on to suggest that Pogba’s form is so good at the moment that Solskjaer might decide to change the formation in order to accommodate him. A 4-4-2 diamond, for example, or even a 4-2-2-2 could be used with the Frenchman on the left of the diamond or taking up a position alongside Bruno Fernandes as twin number 10’s.

Either of these options, however, would mean playing with one less forward, with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford or Edinson Cavani dropping to the bench.

The boss himself has admitted that it will be a difficult decision.

‘They are two good pairs,’ he said.
‘In some games we have chosen Nemanja and Paul and I think they’ve played really well together.
‘I think the two of them were the difference against Burnley, with the physicality, the experience, the knowhow and the quality.
‘I’m in a lucky position that I’ve got many good midfielders to choose from.
‘Who is fit, who is fresh, all of these things will come into my mind and those who played against Burnley have given me food for thought for the time coming up.’

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