Ole’s faith is re­paid as duo start to click

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By DO­MINIC BOOTH

UNITED’S surge of form im­me­di­ately af­ter Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer was ap­pointed was achieved with a mid­field of Ne­manja Matic, An­der Her­rera and Paul Pogba.

The trio were in­te­gral to how United played, as Pogba thrived in a free role, Her­rera hus­tled and har­ried through­out the pitch, while Matic pro­vided steel and re­silience as a true de­fen­sive mid­fielder.

Key in­juries in that area in March then de­railed United’s cam­paign – de­spite the mir­a­cle of PSG, in which none of the three fea­tured – with United win­ning just two of their fi­nal 12 games of the sea­son af­ter Paris. In the fi­nal 10 matches of the cam­paign, Matic, Her­rera and Pogba started just two games to­gether, a win and a draw.

Yet per­haps the stun­ning PSG Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory was a turn­ing point in a dif­fer­ent way. Yes, it proved to be United’s fi­nal hur­rah of a largely aw­ful sea­son and a truly abysmal run of form fol­lowed, but it also saw the start of a new mid­field com­bi­na­tion that is now bear­ing fruit.

Scott McTom­i­nay and Fred had only started to­gether twice before that night in Paris, in a 2-0 FA Cup vic­tory over Read­ing and the 3-1 vic­tory at Crys­tal Palace, which would prove to be United’s last away vic­tory last sea­son.

Both were im­mense on that glo­ri­ous Euro­pean night, though even the hardi­est United fan would ad­mit their side was more than a lit­tle bit for­tu­nate, de­spite plenty of pos­i­tive per­for­mances all over the pitch.

And so it proved for the rest of the cam­paign, with McTom­i­nay and Fred over­whelmed in the United mid­field for the ma­jor­ity of that rough 12-game spell.

It was a steep learn­ing curve for them. Fred con­tin­ued to re­ceive flak from fans and pun­dits alike – with his £52m price tag weigh­ing heavy on his shoul­ders – though McTom­i­nay was vir­tu­ally the sole United player to end the sea­son in credit.

He scored his first United goals against Wolves and Hud­der­s­field. His was the only name fans dared chant af­ter last sea­son’s nadir, the 4-0 shel­lack­ing at Ever­ton. Was this a sign of things to come? There were plenty who dis­missed that ques­tion out of hand, with Her­rera’s sum­mer de­par­ture ex­ac­er­bat­ing the sit­u­a­tion in United’s mid­field and many doubt­ing McTom­i­nay’s abil­ity to step up.

Fred was barely seen in pre-sea­son af­ter get­ting mar­ried in Brazil, a de­ci­sion that was said to have left Sol­sk­jaer unim­pressed.

Then, it got worse. The open­ing months of this sea­son left United’s mid­field in dire straits with Her­rera

United mid­fielder Fred

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.