Following an eventful opening weekend to the 2021/22 season of the Premier League, it was Manchester United that took home most of the headlines after a stunning performance that saw them put five goals past Leeds United.
While a spectacular team-performance all round, it was Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba that received most of the limelight thanks to their wizardry on the pitch.
If these two can continue playing the way they did on Saturday, do they have the potential to be considered the best midfield duo in the world right now?
For arguments’ sake, let’s take Barcelona’s classic Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets as the standard for an elite midfield trio.
Iniesta had the creative attacking flair to support Lionel Messi’s genius offensively, Xavi brought such confidence to the team, seemingly never misplacing a pass, and Busquets was the solid anchor sitting above the defence and slowing down the game so that Barcelona were always setting the tempo of play.
This cohesion amongst the midfield gave the forward players such confidence that they never had to worry about what was behind them. They could focus all their attention on moving forward, knowing that, thanks to the midfield trio, opportunities would always present themselves.
Manchester United are beginning, season-upon-season, to embody what Barcelona once had.
The thing that United do differently however, is what the midfield are capable of in the final third.
With Mason Greenwood, their main striker against Leeds, only 19-years-old, he still has room to grow and will no doubt improve rapidly in seasons to come.
It was Fernandes instead, that seems to provide the bulk of the goals, putting a sensational hat trick past Leeds’ keeper Meslier on the weekend.
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Since joining United in January 2020, Fernandes instantly brought something different to the club, having provided a total of 43 goals in 81 games (averaging more than 1 goal per game).
The versatility in his game allows him to perform as a playmaker behind a front three, as well as acting as a prolific second striker if he needs to.
Paul Pogba on the other hand has had his critics after many believe he doesn’t play to the best of his potential for club like he does for country.
However, providing four assists against Leeds, including a spectacular ball inside the full back to set up Mason Greenwood’s goal, he ran the show alongside Fernandes in the opening game.
It was the movement of the team that allowed for spaces to constantly open up as they drew Leeds players away from them. But it was the genius of Pogba that consistently put the ball into those spaces for the forward players to make use of.
A performance like that sends a message to the rest of the league that you can’t sleep on this team. If you let your guard down for one second, then they will expose you.
With the ever-improving reliability of Scott McTominay and the strong Fred behind them, Fernandes and Pogba felt the confidence to roam around the pitch and take up a more attacking role which will benefit United as Greenwood’s abilities grow week-upon-week.
Their next league game is against Southampton on Sunday 22 August. They last time these two faced off in the Premier League, Manchester United came away with a 9-0 victory.
After a performance like theirs on Saturday afternoon, the red devils could look to put double figures past the Saints’.