Man Utd: Solskjaer delivers Pogba fitness update
After all, it was his injection of quality and rise to the fore that saw United considered as genuine Premier League title contenders at the turn of the year.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to have unlocked the superstar who had threatened to full off the map at Old Trafford and now United had two world players capable of winning matches on their own, in their side.
Pogba’s absence now feeds into a wider problem, one that was glaringly obvious in tonight’s 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, that Fernandes cannot do it all on his own. That’s been the case for a while.
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It begged the question of whether it was necessary to start him in last week’s Europa League last 32 second leg with Real Sociedad, with United already 4-0 to the good.
When Fernandes is not on song, United look like an entirely different team. It’s a scary and quite frankly worrying reality check of where they may have been without him.
As this season’s Premier League top scorers, it’s fair to say that United are the division’s entertainers but tonight’s showing in south London was enough to send you to sleep.
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Fernandes had tried though, with plenty of swings of his right boot. In the first half, no player gave the ball away more than him (11 times).
There was no urgency to United’s play and if they were to score, it was only ever likely to come from a set-piece, once again delivered by Fernandes.
United need goals and they need goals from the wide areas. It’s time Marcus Rashford is held accountable. He does not win enough games for Solskjaer and is supposed to be one of their main men. His lack of cutting edge is why he won’t start for England at the European Championships this summer.
Mason Greenwood has flattered to deceive too following a stunning breakthrough campaign last season, that saw him net 17 goals in all competitions.
Seasoned veteran Edinson Cavani was feeding entirely off scraps but worked his socks off nonetheless.
This was a far cry from the service he received during his time at the Parc des Princes, where he gunned in 200 Ligue 1 goals during his time at the club.
In midfield, the likes of Fred and Nemanja Matic were solely deployed to provide stability, allowing the attacking players to do the damage going forward.
Yet when Pogba’s on duty, he has the ability to influence the game from deep.
Manchester United never looked like scoring vs Crystal Palace
This game passed a large number of their players by, as they stop and stared at Fernandes and waited for something to happen.
It’s been a similar story in other matches this season, including Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea.
The same applies to draws with Arsenal and Liverpool and the embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United.
Fernandes had little impact in either of those outings and ultimately it means, United’s powers wane in front of goal.
You can forgive Solskjaer for wanting to bolster his frontline this summer with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho among those who would rip up the script and make mockery of United’s toothless attack against Palace.