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Manchester United's midfield problems laid bare in their last two games





Manchester United's issues in midfield since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over have been well documented. The arguments have mainly been about who should occupy the two midfield positions.


Their last two games, against Villarreal and Everton, have perfectly summed up United's problems in the middle of the park. They struggle to break teams down who operate in a low block and get caught out on the counter.


Solskjaer likes to operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation with two players at the base of the midfield. But the personnel who should fill these roles have been subject to a lot of debate.



The Norwegian has tried two systems which include a double-pivot and with only one defensive midfielder. Both of these systems have been on display in United's last two games.

In the midweek Champions League fixture against Villarreal, Solskjaer started Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba in midfield. But in the weekend's game at Old Trafford, he reverted back to his trusted pairing of Fred and McTominay.


In the game against Villarreal, the attacking line-up sort of backfired against United even though they won the game. Their midfield was completely overwhelmed and outnumbered by Villarreal.


Scott McTominay acted as the lone sitting midfielder with Paul Pogba venturing forward quite often. This led to a lack of control of the game and United looked very shaky at the back, particularly in the first half.


Their domination is reflected in the number of shots at De Gea's goal, which were 15 and 7 of them were on target. Villarreal had more possession than United in the first-half and were also guilty of some poor finishing.


Villarreal's first goal perfectly summed up United's display. The ease with which they bypassed United's midfield doesn't bode well for Solskjaer, who didn't have the services of his captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan Bissaka.


Seeing United's struggles, Solskjaer reverted back to his trusted partnership with Fred and Scott McTominay in their next game against Everton. What followed was a performance that had a lack of penetration and incisiveness in the final third.


With Ronaldo and Pogba on the bench, United suffered from a lack of creativity in midfield. Manchester United could only muster 6 shots on target even though having 72% possession of the ball.



Bruno Fernandes battles for the ball with Anthony Gordon

Fred, in particular, received criticism from pundits for his role in Everton's equalizer. Former Liverpool player Danny Murphy, speaking to the BBC, said: "United actually started well. They created some good chances, but their calamitous defending let Everton back in. They grew into the game and got more confident.


"This is from a United point of view. It's their corner, Fred has got to win that tackle. He doesn't and he's not strong enough when it comes to the shoulder barge.

"Look at the United players. They're not proactive they are reactive. It's too late and they can't get back. Shaw does get across, but it's a poor attempt to win the ball, he dangles a foot in and goes at it too quick.


This performance has once again reminded them of their past failings against small teams. Solskjaer has tried two different systems in the last two games and neither of them have produced the required results..


Ole is under serious pressure to guide United to a major trophy this season. He got the players he wanted in the summer and it's time for him to deliver. He can start doing that by sorting out his midfield which is looking like the weak link for Manchester United.

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