It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say this with a straight face, but it seems that United might finally themselves have a bench. So many times over the past few years, probably ever since Sir Alex, United have found themselves in a situation where they need a spark of energy or someone to come on and shore up the defence, only almost every option we’ve had has been out on the pitch already.
The likes of Moyes’ and Van Gaal’s teams had plenty of players to fill out the squad; Van Gaal’s talented forward line and ‘Schmidfield’ certainly looked the part on paper, whereas Moyes seemed more intent on dismantling a title-winning side to prove he could do it with his own. Yet they never proved to be competitive enough on the pitch and there were certainly no real match-winners on the bench.
One of the best parts about Ferguson’s teams is that with each regen, he not only managed to assemble a starting eleven that could compete at the highest level, but build a wider first-team squad where could rely on several people to come on and change a game/see out a result. Ole himself—the original super-sub—knows that all too well. In 36 appearances, he scored a total 126 goals, with a record 28 goals of those coming off the bench – a truly astonishing record.
Fast-forward to now, with Wednesday’s match against Sheffield and maybe even after Spurs, to a degree, and what both games seemed to show is that United now genuinely have the personnel to either dispatch teams with conviction, or turn to someone to come on and make a noticeable impact. That statement might need more unpacking, so let’s do that.
I’m not saying we have world-beaters all over the pitch and warming every seat on the bench, but what we do have is several players in the same position, nearly all of which can make a case to be starting ahead of their counterpart. In short, I think two things have enabled this to happen: one is the return of Paul Pogba but most crucially, I believe, is the signing of Bruno Fernandes.
This is not to go in and argue one is better than the other, although Bruno’s creative output and goal contributions in so few appearances have been remarkable, but what his addition has taken immense pressure of the Frenchman’s shoulders. I know the ‘bring in such and such and you will finally unleash Pogba’ rigmarole had become somewhat of a broken record, but in this case, I think Bruno’s introduction finally has the potential too. Continue reading