Manchester United are about to show how much they trust Paul Pogba – Richard Fay

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Manchester United’s switch of formation at the weekend was evidence of a manager living on the brink.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started the season with the intention of adopting an expansive 4-3-3 approach which planned to see his side embrace their own irresistible attacking talents and play on the front foot, instead with the pressure mounting they have turned pragmatic as they look to sit back and pounce on the counter attack instead.

As long as United are winning matches it won’t matter too much for Solskjaer in the short-term and he knows the next task is simply to be in a job long enough to put things right with a midfield reshuffle in the New Year, though after so much backing it is hard to argue that spending more will solve all of their problems.

United have recorded eight wins using the 3-5-2 approach which ripped apart a terrible Tottenham side at the weekend and it seems certain they will stick with it for the visit of Man City in the Premier League this weekend.

Before then there is the tricky task of taking on Atalanta in the Champions League, a match in which three at the back is not a necessity but could be used in order to maintain consistency ahead of another pivotal encounter at the weekend.

‘Consistency’ and ‘momentum’ are two buzzwords sure to be used a lot in the coming weeks as Solskjaer looks to address his side’s troubles and for their upcoming Battle of Bergamo such consistency might be wise again.

A tough balancing act will be player fitness levels in the new-look system with Edinson Cavani surely in need of a rest if he is to be fully fit for the Manchester derby at the weekend, though Marcus Rashford is a sensible switch in the striking role after another goal on Saturday.

Yet perhaps the most interesting selection will be that of Paul Pogba. The Frenchman missed the weekend win through suspension for his reckless red against Liverpool and will be out for the visit of City this weekend and Watford after the international break too.

The game against Atalanta represents his only chance of game time at club level in the next three weeks, though it is difficult to see where he fits into the new system given the importance of pressing and sacrifice from the central midfield roles which saw Fred and Scott McTominay shine at Spurs.

Pogba started the season in sensational style on the left wing but his inclusion as a central midfielder still remains somewhat of a luxury given the other attacking talents who need to be catered for in the same formation.

Paul Pogba was dismissed during Manchester United's 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Paul Pogba was dismissed during Manchester United’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

In order to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes the team needs to be built around them with hard work and energy which supplements their limitations when out of possession, it is a precise balance that hasn’t been found with Pogba in the mix so far this season.

A return back to a 4-2-3-1 would be the only real way to utilise the France international in the pivotal European fixture but with pressure still intense on Solskjaer even that is a risk that might be too much to take after a successful formation change last time out.

Victory at Tottenham was a possible shot at redemption for the United manager but such success will quickly be undone if they fail to win in Italy this midweek.

At a time when United need unity we are about to find out just how much Solskjaer really does Pogba to come good at his time of need.

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