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The MNF debate: can Pogba carry out alongside Bruno?

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Can Paul Pogba become an important player in Manchester United midfield alongside Bruno Fernandes?

That was the question Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher debated passionately on Monday night after the French midfielder was excluded from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's starting XI against Chelsea on Saturday.

Neville had explained earlier on the show how Solskjaer had gone "back to basics" with Scott McTominay and Fred anchoring midfield, with Bruno Fernandes ahead of them, and how this strengthened United's defensive cover while unleashing the Portuguese playmaker .

Neville also believes that Solskjaer will come under pressure to reinstate United's record-breaking player Pogba – and that Pogba can be successful with Fernandes in a midfield unit.

Carragher disagreed, however – saying Pogba was "a great talent" but his lack of positional discipline prevented him from being a great player.

Here's what every expert said …

Sunday, November 1st, 4 p.m.

Start at 4:30 p.m.

Gary Neville: At some point Pogba has to join the team. I think he's a brilliant player for Manchester United. He can be a fantastic player, I think he can influence games, he has the guts and the ability and experience and the winning mentality to play in those games.

Jamie Carragher: They told me when we were discussing this, about David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, and never expected to be able to do what they did (in terms of improving their tactical discipline). As far as you go about Pogba on the left and Fernandes on the right, you still need to be disciplined in those roles. Silva and De Bruyne had that. If Nemanja Matic gets the ball, let's say it's Fernandinho, he doesn't have to look up and he knows De Bruyne would be there, Silva would be there. These players had great discipline in this form. The players you're talking about don't have that. With Matic or Fred in that position Fernandes could be on the wing, Pogba could be in the middle forward.

The first time I analyzed Paul Pogba four years ago it was in a Manchester derby and he was playing in central midfield and he was on the left wing for kicks and I said on that show I can't understand how a world-class talent doesn't understand where to be to kick off.

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You just said Pogba is a great player, I would say he is a great talent. Incredible talent, there's nothing he can't do in any way, but great talent doesn't always make a great player.
Jamie Carragher

You just said Pogba is a great player, I would say he is a great talent. Incredible talent, there's nothing he can't do in any way, but great talent doesn't always make a great player. I don't think his understanding of the game is amazing and I think that makes a great player and I think that makes him a great talent rather than a great player.

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Gary Neville explained how Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba got caught on the wrong side of the ball, leaving Man Utd's defense against Crystal Palace open

Neville: He played far left for Juventus in a four, he played left and did that regularly and did very well. I find it really difficult to understand how a player who played on a brilliant team at Juventus and won a lot of titles plays in a brilliant French team at a world cup and wins a world cup and he's a star on that team. can't be considered a great player?

I don't think Manchester United have been a great team in recent years. I don't think Paul Pogba played brilliantly for Manchester United. But the idea that he can't be a great player because he lacks a bit of discipline …

If you had told me De Bruyne would transform into what he has under Pep Guardiola, I would have said there is no chance. There is no way he can be as good defensively as he is offensively, which he has done. He was a tremendous luxury player in the sense that he was a brilliant player, but not on the ball. He was trained and placed in a position that he had made his own.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now returned to two midfielders facing his defense and Bruno Fernandes is in front of them

I don't give up hope that Matic, Pogba, Fernandes can't play together in these three. There will be a point when the burden of having Paul Pogba on your shoulder will shine brightly on Ole. He's going to have to get him on alongside Fernandes, just like he did after the lockdown where they were good together and got some good results.

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I do not share your pessimism about him.
Gary Neville to Jamie Carragher via Paul Pogba

I think it can happen again. I do not share your pessimism about him.

Carragher: After four years at Manchester United, how do you still talk about finding Pogba's best position and can Ole get more out of him, can he discipline his game? He's been there for four years!

If he's as good as you think, or that Ole can get more out of him, why are we still having these conversations now and almost hoping or believing that he can be something he hasn't shown in four years? I do not understand.

Neville: This debate about whether they can play together or whether they can play together as a team … If you had said to me 10 years ago, I would have said "no, forget it". But as the teams are now progressing with the players, Manchester City won the league with Aguero, Sterling, Sane, De Bruyne, Silva and Fernandinho as front six.

Carragher: You have discipline! They won leagues before Pep Guardiola got there.

Can Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba play together in Man Utd midfield?
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Can Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba play together in Man Utd midfield?

Neville: Pogba had seven or eight months with Fernandes, three of which were banned. Two were in preseason, he had Covid about four weeks ago, I don't think they were able to play together that much.

I don't think we should write it down today. At Christmas time, when they can't play together, when the results don't improve with both of them on the team, fair enough. But it's too early.

Carragher: If United played in a big game against City or Liverpool, would you play those two in midfield?

Neville: I would have no problem playing both in midfield.

Analysis: why Solskjaer went back to basics with midfield against Chelsea

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has "got back to basics" and returned to his trusted midfield to resolve the team's defensive problems and help Bruno Fernandes, Gary Neville told Monday Night Football.

United went into international break earlier this month after beating Tottenham 6-1 at home after losing 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and getting past Brighton 3-2 on a late penalty.

But since the Premier League resumed, United have beaten Newcastle 4-1 and drew 0-0 with Chelsea. United also won an impressive 2-1 Champions League victory in Paris Saint-Germain.

Sky Sports expert Neville explained that Solskjaer's return to two midfielders behind Fernandes – as opposed to trying to play Paul Pogba with just one defensive midfielder and Fernandes – is key to the turnaround.

Read the analysis here

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Steven Gregory