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Pogba in, Fellaini out? How Solskjaer's Man Utd could line up in new-look side

10:05 AM GMT 19/12/2018
Marouane Fellaini Paul Pogba
The Norwegian coach has previously professed to being a huge fan of the France international and that could give United a new dimension in attack

To many Cardiff City fans he represents one of the most miserable spells they can remember watching their team, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been handed the most spectacular of second chances in the Premier League after being named as Manchester United’s interim manager until the end of the season.

In turning to Solskjaer to replace Jose Mourinho, United have overlooked that spell in south Wales and backed a man who had such an exceptional record with their own reserve team before going on to win back-to-back league titles with Molde.

And any United fans wondering how Solskjaer might set up United  in his bid to wake them from their Mourinho-induced slumber may not need to look too much further than his reign as the reserve boss at Old Trafford for the biggest clue.

It was during that period that he worked with a young Paul Pogba, who he has since conceded he would “build the team around" if he ever got to work with him.

And with the style of football under Mourinho having become a concern for the United board, more functional options such as Marouane Fellaini may be foregone in the hope of the team becoming far more expressive.

So what might Solskjaer’s United look like?

Same shape, more licence for Pogba

The 4-3-3 which Jose Mourinho employed didn't seem to get the best out of many players but there may be an opportunity to tinker it slightly to coax better performances out of the team.

If Fred is tucked in on the right-hand side to cover Nemanja Matic, that would allow Pogba to spend more time in the positions in which he thrives higher up the field. Diogo Dalot would be the prime candidate to play at right-back due to his quality in attacking positions down the right flank.

In the forward line, Anthony Martial would be the ideal player to come off the left of attack due to his tendency to play high and not drop into Pogba's favoured spaces as has happened with Alexis Sanchez before now.

Sanchez would be better suited to the right in this scenario, and it is a position which got the best out of him at both Udinese and Barcelona. He would, though, potentially have to usurp Marcus Rashford for a starting shirt unless the young England forward is used instead of Romelu Lukaku in the centre of the attack.

Pogba in the hole

If it is considered that there is more defensive cover needed in the midfield, then both Fred and Ander Herrera - or even Andreas Pereira - could be chosen alongside Matic.

That would truly allow Pogba greater freedom in the number 10 role behind a front two, although the drawback there would be the need to overlook even more of United's deep attacking stocks.

With the likes of Sanchez, Lukaku, Martial, Rashford, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard to choose from in the higher third, there will be a temptation to use as much of that talent as possible. That may be enough to persuade Solskjaer that the ability to allow Pogba to roam may not be worth the loss of an extra attacking option or two.

Attack, Attack, Attack

If Solskjaer is being brought in to give the fans some long-forgotten entertainment, then he may decide to give his team real licence in the attacking half. If a high pressing game is employed, then Matic and the defensive quartet may have enough about them to cover the rest of the field and United could really get at opponents.

That would allow the Norwegian to select more of his available attackers too, with practically two No.10s in Pogba and Sanchez. Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard would also serve as able options in either one of the central positions or from out wide.

A higher, more energetic press ought to give United far more dynamic possession than they have enjoyed in the last few seasons under Mourinho and during the reign of Louis van Gaal before him.

Is Solskjaer likely to be bold enough to go with it?