Manchester United started their UEFA Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over FC Basel at Old Trafford. However, The Red Devils lost one of their most important players in the process when Paul Pogba left with an injury during the first half. The French star suffered a hamstring injury, and recent reports have indicated he might be out until late October.
At the very least, Pogba will miss the upcoming matches before the international break. And considering that’s a five-game stretch, Jose Mourinho needs to find a proper replacement who can perform as soon as he is inserted in the starting. Here are the alternatives at Mou’s disposal:
Option 1: Marouane Fellaini
All signs indicate Fellaini will be Pogba’s replacement, at least in the match against Everton this Sunday. The Belgian thrived in the Champions League match against Basel this Tuesday, and once again proved he can adapt to several roles. He would offer a more balanced option alongside Nemanja Matic, although he can certainly push back and help defensively if needed.
Aside from the tactical standpoint, Fellaini can be a decent threat on the air. His height allows him to reach crosses other players can’t, and he helps on both sides of the ball in that aspect. In fact, it was quite common to see Fellaini playing as a striker in the final minutes when United were losing a game. That’s another ace up the sleeve Mou could use.
Option 2: Ander Herrera
Ander Herrera has been relegated to a secondary role this season for Manchester United. The arrival of Matic, the solid performances from Pogba, and Henrik Mkhitaryan’s play on a free role have pushed the Spaniard out of the starting XI. But he will get a great chance to log some extra minutes while Pogba is out.
Ander is not the physical presence Fellaini or Pogba are. However, he is an intelligent player who could offer an accurate touch from midfield. He is an interesting player capable of collaborating on both ends of the pitch, and his technical ability fit him better as a deep-lying playmaker. That kind of player is exactly the complement Matic needs in midfield.
In games where United need to dominate and secure possession, Herrera would be great. Therefore, it’s not crazy to imagine him starting against Burton, Southampton, or Crystal Palace. He is certainly one player to watch closely while Pogba is sidelined.
Option 3: Michael Carrick
Last but not least, there is Michael Carrick. The former West Ham star is no longer a physical presence in midfield, and fits better as a deep-lying playmaker. He would be a decent complement for Matic, but everything depends on the matchup.
For instance, Carrick could be a good option for the Carabao Cup against Burton Albion on September 20. Or maybe he could play against Crystal Palace. But he might not be as useful in the games against Everton or CSKA Moscow. He would be a good replacement option, but is better suited to remain as a back-up for the foreseeable future.
And you? Who would you choose as the central-midfield pair for the upcoming matches? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!