Erling Haaland or Harry Kane, and a Paul Pogba replacement – Manchester United transfers to improve their record against ‘Big Six’ clubs and free up Bruno Fernandes

Although drawing away to Chelsea is by no means a bad result, the uninspiring performance threw up more questions about Manchester United’s approach against ‘Big Six’ opposition.

With the exception of their 6-1 humiliation at home to Tottenham in October, the Red Devils boast a decent record against their main rivals this season.

Did the humiliation against Spurs mark the beginning of a more cautious approach from Man United?
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In fact, since that freak result, they’ve only lost once in six league outings against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.

But by the same token, they haven’t won a game, which suggests Ole Gunnar Solskjaer employs far more cautious tactics when facing the big boys.

The goalless draw at Stamford Bridge only left fans with a sense Man United could have got more with criticism about talisman Bruno Fernandes’ performance level in big matches resurfacing.

A narrative that he goes missing in these fixtures has developed and the stats don’t look good for Fernandes, who has one goal and no assists in seven matches against ‘Big Six’ sides in the Premier League.

Fernandes doesn’t get the same joy against ‘Big Six’ clubs as he gets in most matches
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That solitary goal was a penalty early on in the defeat to Spurs, which also saw him substituted at half-time.

talkSPORT’s Adrian Durham said on Monday: “There are questions about Bruno Fernandes against bigger clubs, because he simply doesn’t do it.
“Now he has done some brilliant things, his goal tally is brilliant with all the assists and all that, but against the bigger clubs Man United don’t score which means Bruno isn’t turning up.

“He makes goals happen; whether he scores them or makes them, he makes goals happen and they just do not score against those big sides.”

Manchester United against the ‘Big Six’ this season

  • Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham
  • Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
  • Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
  • Manchester United 0-0 Man City
  • Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
  • Arsenal 0-0 Manchestser United
  • Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United

However, the United Stand’s Mark Goldbridge told talkSPORT.com that the Fernandes narrative is a myth as Solskjaer sets the team up differently to what they usually do in matches against lesser opponents, where the 26-year-old is frequently central to Man United’s success.

So if you can free up Fernandes then this should heed better results and more ambitious tactical approaches against top Premier League sides.

With this in mind, talkSPORT.com has identified three areas where Man United should look to recruit to improve results against ‘Big Six’ opposition and dispel the Fernandes myth.

A prolific striker

Clear-cut chances are inevitably more difficult to come by in clashes against better teams. When you do get one, you have to take it.

Solskjaer has exciting forwards at his disposal but none who have the ice in their veins needed during the tight contests.

Former Red Devils hitman Mark Hughes believes Solskjaer should invest in a top striker this month, with the futures of Harry Kane and Erling Haaland a talking point.

Hughes told Sky Sports: “They need Edinson Cavani from five years ago, when he was in his pomp. They probably got him at the wrong time even though he’s still an outstanding centre forward. When he plays, he gives them a lot more focus and things happen around him.

On whether Man United should try to sign Kane or Haaland, he added: “They are certainly the type they need to be in the market for.”

Man City are understood to be frontrunner to sign Kane but may be more tempted to sign the younger Haaland, which could give United a chance to sign the Tottenham star

A world-class centre-back

Buying a top striker may not allow Fernandes more opportunities to get forward but acquiring a world-class centre-back certainly would.

Liverpool is the perfect model to look at. The last couple of seasons they’ve had Virgil van Dijk to rely on to mop things up should they lose the ball, which has allowed midfielders and full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to get forward frequently. Without Van Dijk this season, Liverpool have looked exposed on the counter numerous times.

If Man United were to get a Van Dijk figure then that would give players more license to get forward. Solskjaer usually plays Fred and Scott McTominay, both defensively-minded midfielders, against ‘Big Six’ sides. A colossus at centre-back could lead to a more positive midfield.

This is easier said than done as world-class centre-backs who are available are a rare commodity.

Man United have been linked with Raphael Varane but would he leave arguably the world’s biggest club in Real Madrid?
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A Paul Pogba replacement

Man United certainly missed Pogba’s athleticism and ability on the ball at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps they would have taken all three points had he be playing.

But they may have to get used to playing without him permanently with talk about his Old Trafford future a constant.

If he does leave then the Red Devils need to get someone who has a similar style and is also at a similar level, otherwise Fernandes will have to get used to carrying out more defensive duties for years to come.

Again, like with signing a world-class centre-back, signing a top class box-to-box midfielder is easier said than done, especially one who doesn’t take the ball away from Fernandes.

Fernandes will be praying Man United can keep hold of Pogba
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