For 14 minutes at St James’ Park Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, unleash the midfield Manchester United Fans were waiting.
When Donnie Van de Beek came off the bench to replace Daniel James with United’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle, it was the first time in six games this season that the Dutchman was in the same stadium with Paul Pogba. Bruno Fernandez. Just over a quarter of an hour later, United scored a hat-trick and the tense deadlock turned into a rampant away win.
He was nothing short of United’s worth, playing with character and confidence to get rid of the pain of the 6-1 defeat that Tottenham lost two weeks ago, but for a long time it looked like it would be another day of frustration.
Instead, a late hit guaranteed Solskjaer the response he wanted to the humiliation against Tottenham, in terms of performances and points.
It was a lightning campaign inspired by Fernandez W. Van de BeekAnd, in particular, it might not have been a coincidence that United seemed more dangerous when their top three midfielders were on the field.
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But this was not a bright moment for Solskjaer. If anything it only adds to the problems he faces in midfield. At first, this was not a normal midline. Scott McTominay was still providing protection, and Van de Beek and Fernandez were taking turns left. That could become a long-running ploy but it will leave Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial with nowhere to go.
Placing Van de Beek, Pogba and Fernandez in the same starting lineup at the moment is still difficult and their influence on Newcastle thanks to the platform put on by McTomenay and Fred.
Solshire made it clear that he wanted the energy on his part after the sad nature of the meltdown against Tottenham, which made the sign Unique McTominay’s decisions are fairly simple.
The Brazilian and the Scotsman formed an unlikely partnership last season but they both tend to do the best of each other, and they sure set the tone for the more aggressive midfield show on Saturday.
United’s pressure has clearly been more intense against the Magpies and Fred is often a key figure in that regard. Whereas the Nemanja Matic doesn’t have the high-pressure ability and is still dropping for cover in midfield now, and Pogba Rarely a ferocious officer when he dives deep into the field, Fred makes it his mission to press the corresponding numbers in midfield and has not given Newcastle an easy way out.
Thanks to McTominay’s energy and leadership at his side, all the bases in midfield are covered when it comes to rate work.
They may not have the Matic and Pogba category, but so far this season that quality has overshadowed all three Premier League matches. United’s midfield, which appeared to be a strong point in the first weeks after the season resumed, has been unbalanced so far this season and it has been too easy for the opposing midfield to find a way to qualify and run out of defense.
Fred and Maktominay put an end to that and gave United a platform. Now Solskjaer has to balance how valuable this platform is with the quality he gets from Van de Beek and Pogba, who started off the bench.
This was especially tough on the Dutchman and the £ 35m summer signature should be around the start now. The question is where it fits.
He shared a Fernandez goal, the blow that broke Newcastle’s back keeper, and performed well in possession in a deep position on the left before unleashing a low shot into Juan Mata’s feet which opened up the attack.
But given that Fernandez will definitely start in the more advanced midfield position, it might seem like Van de Beek is fighting for one of the deeper roles. So far this season, Matic, Pogba, Fred and McTominay have been selected ahead of him in those roles, and it would be surprising if Solshire made a more offensive choice against Chelsea or Arsenal in the next two weeks.
The former Ajax midfielder could play from an attacking role on the left, but this would involve breaking the front three. There is no easy solution to getting Van de Beek into Solskjaer’s starting lineup, especially since Fred and McTominay gave him exactly what he wanted in Newcastle.
For 14 glorious minutes, United’s dream midfield was torn to shreds. But at least two of them might return to the bench on Tuesday night and again on Saturday.
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