Bruno Fernandes insists that he and Paul Pogba can play in the same team together for Manchester United – even if he has to change position to do so.
There was much excitement about the prospect of a midfield partnership between Fernandes and Pogba when the Portugal international moved to Old Trafford in January.
Fernandes made a quick impact, but had to wait until June to play alongside Pogba, due to a combination of the Frenchman being injured and lockdown halting the season.
When they started to link up on the pitch, there were some promising signs. However, this season, there have been more questions than answers about the balance of United’s midfield.
Summer signing Donny van de Beek has failed to start a Premier League game so far, while Pogba has also been consigned to the bench in recent games.
Pogba returned to the starting lineup for United’s win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek, but only started one league game in October.
Fernandes, in contrast, continues to prove himself as a key player for United in his first full season at the club. He has started all five of their Premier League games this season.
However, the 26-year-old thinks his teammate Pogba can make an impact by returning to the starting lineup – and denies claims that the Frenchman is angry.
“Paul wants to play, he wants to be in the first XI, that is no different to any player – they all want to be in the first XI,” he told Sky Sports.
“Of course Paul is an amazing player who has done a lot of great things in the past few years. The way he came in against Paris Saint-Germain, against Newcastle, was perfect for the team.
“A lot of people may think Paul is angry on the bench and that he will do nothing when he comes on because he is angry, but he comes in with the right motivation, as we saw with his assist in Paris.
“He was there, he was fighting, holding the ball in the corner for us, he did a really good job. Maybe some people think he was angry because he wanted to play and that he wants to leave the club. Everyone knows the qualities Paul has, he is doing very well.
“Being on the bench is a problem for everyone, but this problem is motivation for Paul. He uses this as motivation and he is helping the team a lot when he comes in and plays, like he did in the last game in the Champions League.”
Fernandes also believes he is capable of playing alongside Pogba from the first minute of matches, shedding light on their relationship on and off the pitch.
“It’s always a pleasure being in a team with him because I can learn a lot from him, and he can learn a lot from me,” he said. “Together we can do great things.
“We have a good relationship, of course. We both speak Italian so most of the time we speak Italian. I have a good relationship with him on and off the pitch.
“He’s a funny guy, he always wants to joke. I know him from Italy already but now I have the chance to be in a team with a World Cup winner.”
Fernandes happy to adapt
Fernandes is also open to playing in different positions to accommodate Pogba, even though they both favour the same attacking midfield role.
Some pundits have suggested that United would need to change their formation to fit both players in, and Fernandes says he is willing to adapt to anything.
“There is a lot of conversations about this situation and playing different formations where Bruno and Paul can play together,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I play in the first XI or Paul plays in the first XI, if I play no. 10 or Paul plays no. 10.
“As a player you want to play, for me it doesn’t matter about the formation. The most important thing is helping the team, and if the coach thinks I need to play on the left, right, centre, no. 8 or no. 10, I have no problem playing everywhere. I can adapt to everything.
“It’s not a problem, I adapt really quick to different positions or formation. For me, it’s not a problem. Of course not every player has that capacity to be in a different place or play a different role.
Fernandes a team player
“Most of the time you don’t need to play your best in that position, you have to do what you can that is best for the team. Sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about the team and we need to be like that to win trophies.
“Of course we have a lot of formations, we played with three at the back against PSG, then we played with a diamond and a front three. This is modern football.
“Maybe some years ago a team would have a formation and they would play with it all season. Now it’s time to understand what is better for the game and what you can change for the game.
“Against Arsenal, the coach may think it’s better to play the same system or maybe we go back to three or play with a back four.
“We have a lot of people watching Arsenal and seeing what can be better for us as a team, how we can play better and how we can cause more problems to their team.”