The mid-field conundrum

OleTheGreat

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I know we've all said that adding Van De Beek to the mid-field adds depth to our midfield but I think I understand Ole's issue with the players we have. We have Bruno, Pogba, VDB, Mctominay, Fred and Matic but my issue with these players is they don't come together as partnerships in any formations except the one Ole has put forth against Everton.

Bruno
Fred Mctominay is the only combination I can see working and every other combination seems to have flaws in them.

Bruno Pogba
Mctominay could work but Ole hasn't tried it out yet. Any other formation you guys think can work? Matic is slow, remember that. Pogba cannot play as DM and so can't VDB. I don't actually think of Fred as part of the pivot as well but with Mctominay beside him, it seems to work. Tell me what you guys think can actually change our team into a fluid one?

Diamond midfield with no width to attack is not so formidable as well.
 

P-Nut

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The diamond would likely work with DvB on the right side of it and Telles at LB so you get an attacking output on either flank. It puts a lot of pressure on the sole DM if you play Pogba in that LCM spot though.

Bruno
Pogba DvB
Fred?

Purely putting Fred there due to his mobility over McT.

If we're only going to play 3 of them then I think you could go for any of the following and it function...

Bruno/Pogba/DvB
Fred McT/Matic

The issue with that is that we've got too many 10s and no true DM. It's the one reason I can see for selling Pogba as we could create a better squad balance.
 

STYLOISRED

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I already explained in the Mctominay thread why he can't play as a single shield. He doesn't have Matic's ability to drop between the defense line during build up. And you can't bench Fred. Pogba for all his attributes, need Defensive cover to really shine Which is why a midfield combo with Bruno barely works.
 

Cutch

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I'd like to see us rotate VDB with the most balanced midfield we have of Fred, McTominay and Bruno to provide us with more creativity when needed.

Id particularly like to see

Bruno
Fred VDB

or

Bruno
VDB McT

Also taking Bruno's place when he needs a breather. Any 3 from 4 basically.

Don't really want to see Matic play at all and happy enough to see Pogba benched or come on left wing out of the road
 

Web of Bissaka

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It's a troublesome conundrum because we only rely on them individually to hash it out on their own naturally, and not doing any good coaching so they can all play together to form good cooperation and partnership??

1. Luckily McFred clicks.
2. We also know from many past games McTominic clicks.
3. Fredic isn't too bad as well.

That's it.

Pogba only clicks when he's in midfield of three but only when either-one/both of Carrick and Herrera are there.
 

Tibs

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I really want Ole to give the below diamond a go for a few games.

-------------- FRED ---------------

DVDB ---------------- POGBA

------------- BRUNO-------------

----- TONY ------- MR ----------

Attacking, Fred doing his thing in front of the defence

When in attack, Donny, Pog, Bruno, Tony, and MR go forward with the two full backs...and when defending/winning ball back, Donny and Pogba have to sit back for a little added protection for the defence.

Let's fecking go for it
 

Tibs

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PogbaFredMcTMaticVDB
Pogba-Average..Okay..Bad..?
FredAverage..-GoodGood?
McTOkay...Good-Good?
MaticBad..GoodGood-Poor
VDB???Poor-
You would expect two defensive midfielders to play well together though? Playing to a defensive model doesn't play to our strengths imo - PL table backs that up
 

MadDogg

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Bruno
Fred-Matic

Bruno and Fred are certainties IMO so the question is who fits in beside them. McTominay may be the best choice in games against the very best teams where we need the pure workrate, but against most teams we need a bit more passing and playmaking ability. That player also needs to be decent defensively so it can't be Pogba (although he played in that position against Sevilla last year and we dominated their midfield despite losing the match). I'd like to see VDB there at some point to see how it works but it's definitely too early to claim that it's the best option.

That leaves Matic, who is the right 'type' of player albeit not as good as I'd like (can we get Carrick back out of retirement?). Matic normally does play fairly well until he gets run into the ground and his form plummets. It also doesn't help that he tends to get played next to Pogba so he gets a huge amount of the defensive duties by himself. So play him next to Fred while also getting plenty of rests with one of the others coming in, let Fred be the legs in midfield while Matic provides that balance between defensive security and passing ability.

We've only used that midfield four times and it beat Chelsea, City and Watford in the league last year, but lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup (where we did rest a few players).
 

bsCallout

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Due to our midfield options I think attacking fullbacks has become very important for us.

Partey would have probably answered a lot of our problems. With him I think we'd see two of Pogba, Bruno, VDB work very well.
 

Ddannidom

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We really need to show more faith in a Fred, Pogba and Bruno midfield. As this is our most talented mid combo to find some cohesion. McFred, Bruno combo works well 'only' against teams that are out to attack us and its been found wanting against the low block teams most times.

And Rashford has to play as a ten not Bruno, he is an 8!
 

OleTheGreat

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Exactly! I think we need a very good DM like Camavinga, Valverde or the sort to sit in front of the 2 CBs and provide the way out building from the back. Matic is good but his pace and energy has died down. Mctominay is erratic but good although I'd like someone with a variety of passes in him. Fred should play as a CM because he works very hard for the ball and can pass well.
 

Bwuk

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People who put Fred at #6 at the base of a diamond are setting us up to lose. He isn't a #6, he's far better when he can get forward and press the opposition. He's not who you'd want in front of the back 4.

We need someone like Fabinho/Partey.
 

GlasgowCeltic

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In the long term it’s Bruno and Scott plus one for Ole imo. He knows it’s not Pog or Matic and it won’t be vdB.
 

Borys

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First choice and fully functional Midfield:
McTominay Fred
Bruno
A lot of energy, good ball circulation, great defensively, OK going forward because Bruno. But it's two conservative box to box players because Fred can't stop running and would be w waste playing as CDM, and Scott doesn't fell comfortable in the middle - he always pulls to the right.

Possible well-functioning midfield - Single Pivot:
Matic
VdB Fred

Matic
Fred Bruno

Basically Matic can only play in CDM position, I think pairing him with Fred doing the leg work would be quite effective midfield. Matic and Fred are only two pure midfielders.

Possible well-functioning midfield - Double Box to Box:
Fred Pogba
Bruno

VdB Fred
Bruno

Wouldn't try this from the start against any team in the league because I don't rate Pogba and van de Beek defensive attributes, but might be effective if we expect to have a lot of possession. The second would be my first choice midfield if we switch to back 3 with McTominay as RCB and IMO this is the way forward.

Zero Chance to work:
Matic + Pogba
vdB + Pogba

Pogba and Donny are half midfielders, so don't see any point in playing in that setup.

Overall I think we have some decent options. Matic still has a role to play this season, as he's a good midfielder, just can't be left alone and needs others to do the running. Fred is the first name on teamsheet, because he makes us play better in any setup. McTominay is something between CB and MF, but I rate him highly. Pogba and van de Beek are on the same level for me at this point, would use them as subs.
 
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Bilbo

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A lot of the games that we lose we do so because we've been outworked. We have enough talent to win most of our matches as long as we work at least as hard as the opposition. It sounds like an unsophisticated viewpoint, and it is, but it doesn't make it any less true.

What we definitely are not is so outrageously talented that we can ever afford to lose the midfield battle, and for me whenever we play either Pogba (because he just isn't that type of player mentally) or Matic (a very good player when he's on it but rarely mobile enough) we look so much more vulnerable that the likelihood of defeat raises significantly.

The conundrum we face is that although we look at our squad now and see a deep stock of quality midfielders, it really isn't deep because as this thread has shown there aren't enough combinations that work. If you don't have combinations that work, then you don't have options.
 

Nou_Camp99

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There's a reason hardly anybody in Europe plays the diamond. It's a really difficult formation to execute.
 

OleTheGreat

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A lot of the games that we lose we do so because we've been outworked. We have enough talent to win most of our matches as long as we work at least as hard as the opposition. It sounds like an unsophisticated viewpoint, and it is, but it doesn't make it any less true.

What we definitely are not is so outrageously talented that we can ever afford to lose the midfield battle, and for me whenever we play either Pogba (because he just isn't that type of player mentally) or Matic (a very good player when he's on it but rarely mobile enough) we look so much more vulnerable that the likelihood of defeat raises significantly.

The conundrum we face is that although we look at our squad now and see a deep stock of quality midfielders, it really isn't deep because as this thread has shown there aren't enough combinations that work. If you don't have combinations that work, then you don't have options.
Exactly why I posted this thread. I have thought about this for many seasons now. Even when we had Herrera, Fellaini, Fred, Matic and Pogba we had the same issues. Jose identified this issue very early and that's the reason he brought in Matic, who at that time was a very highly rated defensive midfielder and of the right age (29) but he has lost a step now and needs to replaced ASAP. Ole or the board have not addressed the defensive midfielder situation yet and I don't understand why Mctominay is not converted into a proper DM. He can actually do the job.

Mctominay
Bruno pogba/VDB
but we are hell bent on having Fred because his work-rate is impressive and he cannot be dropped right now. What's worse he cannot be used as a DM because even though his work-rate is similar to Kante, his positioning in that area of the field is not that good. He is a central midfielder and thrives in that area. I would really appreciate it if Matic imparts his knowledge on Mctominay and gives him a better understanding of how to be a proper DM. What is even more shocking is we have Carrick as part of the coaching team who was one of the best DM in the successful United line-ups.

I hope we bring in Neves, Camavinga or somebody of the sort and move Matic on. This will stabilize our mid-field and give us more opportunities to create up front.

P.S. We also need a CB or we need to push Mengi up the pecking order because he has been very impressive at the academy level.
 

wolvored

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We waste a better chance of attacking play, by having to play both Fred and McTom as they are simply not good enough by themselves to play that deep lying/DM role. Matic although not brilliant was a lot better, but is too old and slow now. We should have gone for Partey who would have improved the defensive side of midfield immensely. Lets hope this position is rectified next year, as staying loyal to a Fred/McTom pivot isnt getting us anywhere.
 

romufc

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We waste a better chance of attacking play, by having to play both Fred and McTom as they are simply not good enough by themselves to play that deep lying/DM role. Matic although not brilliant was a lot better, but is too old and slow now. We should have gone for Partey who would have improved the defensive side of midfield immensely. Lets hope this position is rectified next year, as staying loyal to a Fred/McTom pivot isnt getting us anywhere.
I do not actually get where you get this from?

We play with an attack of Rashy, Martial, Greenwood (Mata), Bruno and the full backs which is 6

City play with attack - Aguero, Sterling, KDB, Mahrez and full backs = 6

Liverpool attack with - Salah, Mane, Firminho, full backs and Gini = 6

How is our set up too defensive when we attack with similar numbers?
 

SS

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I do not actually get where you get this from?

We play with an attack of Rashy, Martial, Greenwood (Mata), Bruno and the full backs which is 6

City play with attack - Aguero, Sterling, KDB, Mahrez and full backs = 6

Liverpool attack with - Salah, Mane, Firminho, full backs and Gini = 6

How is our set up too defensive when we attack with similar numbers?
Our fullbacks are worth half as much as theirs in an attacking sense.

And City had Silva as well, up until recently.
 

romufc

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Our fullbacks are worth half as much as theirs in an attacking sense.

And City had Silva as well, up until recently.
And we had Pogba.. until recently.

Our full backs are not as good as Liverpool, yes but go have a look at output from our full backs attacking compare to CIty...
 

Longshanks

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We waste a better chance of attacking play, by having to play both Fred and McTom as they are simply not good enough by themselves to play that deep lying/DM role. Matic although not brilliant was a lot better, but is too old and slow now. We should have gone for Partey who would have improved the defensive side of midfield immensely. Lets hope this position is rectified next year, as staying loyal to a Fred/McTom pivot isnt getting us anywhere.

So far this season fred and mctom have started 6 games together we have won 4 drawn 1 lost 1, in the defeat they were playing in a diamond rather than a double pivot.

Also In those games we have conceded just 4 goals, 2 of those were own goals and one was a penalty.

Fred and mctom give us the solid base and control required to regularly win games of football, I admit we could do with upgrade In terms of passing range and creativity in the cdm position but currently we dont have that option.

You have to defend well and win the midfield battle before you can consider attacking output, you could get away with a single pivot if you are willing to play with wide midfielders who track back or full backs who stay back and dont get involved in in the attacking play.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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Our fullbacks are worth half as much as theirs in an attacking sense.

And City had Silva as well, up until recently.
City full backs aren't that productive either. The highest assist of their full back ever achieved was Walker with 6 assists but that was 3 years ago. Their average assist per season are on the same ones as ours.
 

Borys

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We waste a better chance of attacking play, by having to play both Fred and McTom as they are simply not good enough by themselves to play that deep lying/DM role. Matic although not brilliant was a lot better, but is too old and slow now. We should have gone for Partey who would have improved the defensive side of midfield immensely. Lets hope this position is rectified next year, as staying loyal to a Fred/McTom pivot isnt getting us anywhere.
When was Matic much better? We're having an actual midfield performing week in week out and they are improving that's for sure. Honestly don't see how they are a problem.
How would Partey improve us defensively? We've lost 4 goals in 6 games, and that is 2 own goals and 1 penalty. Only one goal conceded from open play is as good as it gets.
Our fullbacks are worth half as much as theirs in an attacking sense.

And City had Silva as well, up until recently.
If you watch City and Liverpool play, the main difference is how Liverpool and City attacking players perform. Midfield is quite close between us and them IMO.
We should focus on improving play in wide areas and encourage our fullbacks to attack, rather than mingle with well funtioning midfield.
 

He'sRaldo

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I do not actually get where you get this from?

We play with an attack of Rashy, Martial, Greenwood (Mata), Bruno and the full backs which is 6

City play with attack - Aguero, Sterling, KDB, Mahrez and full backs = 6

Liverpool attack with - Salah, Mane, Firminho, full backs and Gini = 6

How is our set up too defensive when we attack with similar numbers?
If you watch City and Liverpool play, the main difference is how Liverpool and City attacking players perform. Midfield is quite close between us and them IMO.
We should focus on improving play in wide areas and encourage our fullbacks to attack, rather than mingle with well funtioning midfield.
Since we're talking about those two, it's great to use them as an example of why we often don't perform as well as we can.

Think of it like this. For Tottenham, Walker was clearly an attacking player compared to the likes of Wanyama, Dier, and Dembele. However, when he came into City, his competition for the 5/6 attacking spots was KDB, Silva, and Bernardo. Thus, he's a defensive player at City.

Same for Liverpool. TAA's competition for an attacking spot when he broke through was Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Ox, etc. He's obviously better than all of them at attacking, hence he takes preference for one of the 5/6 attacking spots. Same idea with Robertson of course.

For us, this is how it works right now. In an ideal best 11, Shaw and especially AWB are competing with VdB, Pogba and Bruno for who gets to be one of the 5/6 players to join the attack. However, for some reason Pogba is asked to stay back and cover the fullbacks, while someone like AWB is tasked with providing most of the width on the right.

It ends up being as disjointed as it sounds, since Pogba is inconsistent at covering his fullbacks, and AWB and Shaw are inconsistent at attacking. And to compound things, since Pogba is inconsistent at covering AWB or Shaw, we've started using 2 even more limited DM's to compensate for the fullbacks going forward. This leads to both our DM's and fullbacks being somewhat limited, when we could indeed tweak things and get more attacking impetus from midfield while asking the fullbacks to stay deeper and cover.

I reckon our best midfield will be some combo of Fred, Matic, Pogba, Bruno, and VDB. But it'll need a tweak where the attacking impetus comes mostly from the more talented attacking players, while the expert defenders stay back and cover, allowing us to be more dominant in both phases.
 

dal

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——————-——Martial/Cavani———————
Rashy/Pog—Bruno/VDB—-Greenwood/Pog
————Fred/Matic———-Mctominay/Matic

That’s the options I see. 10 players for 6 positions.
 

el3mel

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Ole is going to stick with Scott-Fred-Bruno for the next few games imo. I think he's done experimenting and this gives him the most stability and balance in midfield both defensively and offensively.

VDB and Pogba will be bench options.
 

Borys

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Since we're talking about those two, it's great to use them as an example of why we often don't perform as well as we can.

Think of it like this. For Tottenham, Walker was clearly an attacking player compared to the likes of Wanyama, Dier, and Dembele. However, when he came into City, his competition for the 5/6 attacking spots was KDB, Silva, and Bernardo. Thus, he's a defensive player at City.

Same for Liverpool. TAA's competition for an attacking spot when he broke through was Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Ox, etc. He's obviously better than all of them at attacking, hence he takes preference for one of the 5/6 attacking spots. Same idea with Robertson of course.

For us, this is how it works right now. In an ideal best 11, Shaw and especially AWB are competing with VdB, Pogba and Bruno for who gets to be one of the 5/6 players to join the attack. However, for some reason Pogba is asked to stay back and cover the fullbacks, while someone like AWB is tasked with providing most of the width on the right.

It ends up being as disjointed as it sounds, since Pogba is inconsistent at covering his fullbacks, and AWB and Shaw are inconsistent at attacking. And to compound things, since Pogba is inconsistent at covering AWB or Shaw, we've started using 2 even more limited DM's to compensate for the fullbacks going forward. This leads to both our DM's and fullbacks being somewhat limited, when we could indeed tweak things and get more attacking impetus from midfield while asking the fullbacks to stay deeper and cover.

I reckon our best midfield will be some combo of Fred, Matic, Pogba, Bruno, and VDB. But it'll need a tweak where the attacking impetus comes mostly from the more talented attacking players, while the expert defenders stay back and cover, allowing us to be more dominant in both phases.
You make an interesting point about players taking one of 6 attacking spots basing on the competition. I agree with that in general, but actually I think in our case the case is not so complicated. I believe that single reason for our lack of offensive contribution from full backs and midfield is because Ole got scared after conceding 11 goals in 3 games, and set us up super defensively. In some games (I recall Chelsea especially) it was clear both fullbacks were told to stay back. However, it seemed in last game vs Everton we looked much better on Shaw side, McTominay and Fred were also more involved in our build up play.

Not sure if I agree about Pogba, he has not been involved much lately and whenever he played, it was high up the pitch. Seems Ole has learned his lesson.
 

wolvored

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I do not actually get where you get this from?

We play with an attack of Rashy, Martial, Greenwood (Mata), Bruno and the full backs which is 6

City play with attack - Aguero, Sterling, KDB, Mahrez and full backs = 6

Liverpool attack with - Salah, Mane, Firminho, full backs and Gini = 6

How is our set up too defensive when we attack with similar numbers?
City have two full backs that contribute regular to their attack same as Liverpool. Our full backs are nowhere near as effective as theirs. Telles may be different hopefully. If we had a proper DM we then can have another AM say VDB to play alongside Bruno where both could drift and at least one get into the box every attack.
 

wolvored

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When was Matic much better? We're having an actual midfield performing week in week out and they are improving that's for sure. Honestly don't see how they are a problem.
How would Partey improve us defensively? We've lost 4 goals in 6 games, and that is 2 own goals and 1 penalty. Only one goal conceded from open play is as good as it gets.

If you watch City and Liverpool play, the main difference is how Liverpool and City attacking players perform. Midfield is quite close between us and them IMO.
We should focus on improving play in wide areas and encourage our fullbacks to attack, rather than mingle with well funtioning midfield.
Matic was better than Fred or McTom when he came here, I dont mean him v both at the same time. As I said too old and slow now.
 

Borys

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Matic was better than Fred or McTom when he came here, I dont mean him v both at the same time. As I said too old and slow now.
He still is good. I'm sure he will have a role to play this season, just need to use him wisely.

As I said in other posts, Matic is the only one in the squad who can play single pivot, just needs to be matched with runners.
 

Leftback99

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Stick with what works which at the moment is Fred, McTominay and Bruno. It's up to the others to force their way in through hard work.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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Matic was better than Fred or McTom when he came here, I dont mean him v both at the same time. As I said too old and slow now.
He was only good for the first 6 months. After that he disappeared and performed poor. He started to perform good again last season in January to end of the season but once again he turned into shit now, even that last season performance wasn’t enough to put him better than Fred.

The truth is that he was already in decline when Conte was in charge at Chelsea, I watched him lot in that season, he got massive help by Conte’s defensive system and being paired with Kante. One of the worst signing, spent 40m just for 10 months good performance in 3.5 years and now we need to spend another money on his position because he’s too old. Feckin Liverpool spent less on Thiago.
 

MadDogg

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Matic was better than Fred or McTom when he came here, I dont mean him v both at the same time. As I said too old and slow now.
I don't think Matic has changed too much in his time here. Right from the start he's been good in small doses but once he starts playing every game he drops away fast. Admittedly his longest patch of good form was his first half a season here, but since then it's been the same old story of being generally poor with a patch of 1-2 months each season where he's been good.

Which does raise the question of whether it's him raising his level when something changes (17/18 it was when he first joined us, 18/19 when Ole took over, 19/20 when he had lost his first team spot for a while), or whether it's our managers overplaying him when he goes through those patches of good form until he gets mentally or physically exhausted? I hope it's the latter and if we manage his minutes properly this season we'll actually see him perform consistently, but we won't know for a while. He hasn't started the season well.
 

bugmat

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He was only good for the first 6 months. After that he disappeared and performed poor. He started to perform good again last season in January to end of the season but once again he turned into shit now, even that last season performance wasn’t enough to put him better than Fred.

The truth is that he was already in decline when Conte was in charge at Chelsea, I watched him lot in that season, he got massive help by Conte’s defensive system and being paired with Kante. One of the worst signing, spent 40m just for 10 months good performance in 3.5 years and now we need to spend another money on his position because he’s too old. Feckin Liverpool spent less on Thiago.
This. Matic has played well for us about 4-5 months when he arrived and a couple months the years after. He was in decline which si why Chelsea sold him. We should've upgraded on him 2 yeuars ago.

Our CM is not as big an issue as people think. Our real problem is our fullbacks in attack (Shaw is the best and he's very average attackwise in comparison to other "top teams") and or right wing (we don't have one - everyone who plays there cts in making it nonfunctional). Our CB pairing is usually paceless too and that compounds the problem.
 

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For me it depends on the quality of opponents midfield quality, special central midfield quality. It mean Ole and his staff have to analyze opponents cm quality. Then set and line up United cm combo.

Example you are not putting only Matic and Pogba against Southampton aggressive and hard work cm players in Ward Prowse and Romeu.

But against Burnley cm quality in Westwood and another one. Pogba and Matic will dominate and not overrun by Burnley cm.

So analyze how much aggressive, how much they are running and theirs quality on the ball.

But against top teams in Europe. I don’t think United are good enough to dominate most of the match.
For me. United cm seem to lack neither the defensive or offensive quality. They are not complete.
Like Pogba is lacking the defensive. Matic is lacking the running and acceleration ability. Fred and McTomare lacking the top quality of a creative and offensive ability.
In others words. I am not sure United cm quality are enough to win premier league.
But in champion league if it will only be one match in the knock out stage in ch.league this year. You never know.
Because United have to aggressive cm players those are good to break down opponents attack. Win the ball and deliver a precise pass to the attack 4 up front. Then everything can happen.
But to win premier league. Longer run and you need abilities to lock up tight defend. You need a really good and top nr.8. The creative and ball skills.

So yeah. I just gave to example with Sotton and Burnley. Then the rest is Ole and staff job.
 

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I thought Matic and Fred were OK against WBA. Feels like Fred is more comfortable alongside McTominay, but Matic was fine. The problem is he can't last 90'.

It's kind of a problem, because considering the number of games we play this season and how frequently, I think McTominay will have to be key player in midfield.

Midfield stats updated
We seem to be doing pretty well with Matic-Fred midfield.
Matic had 89% of passing accuracy with total number of 94 (1 key pass) and won 3/4 aerial duels. I thought he moved the ball well. However, surprisingly had only 1/4 successful tackles, 2 interceptions and was dribbled 3 times. That's not good enough for defensive midfielder IMO.

Fred pass success was very good (92% of 56 passes), but he had only 3/8 successful tackles and was dribbled 5 times. I will keep a closer look on that stat to compare them in the future.
 
Last edited:

Lee565

Full Member
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Mar 6, 2019
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It's the full backs (mainly bissaka) that have created this issue, we could effectively use a narrow midfield diamond or 4222 but are let down by how average our fullbacks are on the ball and in attack.