Manchester United could be without both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane following the international break – but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can copy Jurgen Klopp’s tactic to solve his crisis
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- 02:00, 12 Oct 2021
Manchester United could soon find themselves in a crisis at centre-back, with both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane currently nursing injuries.
Captain Maguire has missed the Red Devils' last two matches and was subsequently omitted from Gareth Southgate's England squad for their internationals this month.
And to add to United's woes, Varane limped off in the first half of Sunday's Nations League final as France beat Spain 2-1.
But manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can use some advice from a former team-mate and copy Jurgen Klopp's unusual tactic from last season to solve the rearguard problem.
Liverpool employed midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in the middle of the back line during the second half of last term.
They recovered from a horrendous patch of form to finish third in the Premier League, with Klopp even pairing the duo together to great success when Solskjaer and co came to Anfield in January, as they kept a clean sheet.
That was when defensive trio Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were all sidelined with injury.
Solskjaer could copy Klopp's tactic
Given that the Red Devils currently have a choice between Victory Lindelof, Eric Bailly and fit-again Phil Jones for the trip to Leicester City on Saturday, they could seek a temporary fix from another department that ex-captain Gary Neville believes has the credentials to fill in there.
Scott McTominay, who has been a regular in midfield alongside Fred for Solskjaer in their almost three years together, plays in a three-man back line for Steve Clarke's Scotland.
He score an added-time winner in the Tartan Army's 3-2 victory over Israel on Saturday and notably shone against England in their Euro 2020 group-stage stalemate.
Since switching international allegiance in 2018, there have been shouts for him to take up that role at club level, prompting Neville to weigh in on the discussion last year.
McTominay is a centre-back when playing for Scotland
UEFA via Getty Images)
"When I watch McTominay play and I think of all the competition in midfield and I wonder if he could be used as a centre-back," the player-turned pundit told Sky Sports in July 2020.
"He’s got the aggression, the speed, his understanding of the game is pretty good, he’s still young."
And speaking on the Webby and O’Neill YouTube channel, Neville added: "I thought McTominay would be Maguire’s centre back partner.
"He’s quick, aggressive, he gets up the pitch, can pass well as a defender, dominant.
"I don’t see much difference between him and [John] Stones, [Declan] Rice, [Eric] Dier, there’s a lot of similarities."
Would McTominay work at centre-back? Comment your thoughts below.
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McTominay himself says the role is now "second nature to him," having started out as a striker in his days in the Red Devils' youth academy.
Speaking to UEFA following the 0-0 draw the Three Lions in June, the 24-year-old said: "The day before I knew I was playing there and the personnel who would be playing. It’s second nature now.
"I’ve played there before so you should know the role. Especially with this manager," he explained in reference to Clarke.
"I’ve done okay so you can adapt and do the best you can."
Recently, however, club legend Bryan Robson declared that McTominay is better deployed in a more advanced role.
"I don’t think he has to be a sitting midfield player and be classed as a defending midfield player," he told BBC Radio Manchester last week.
"He scored seven goals last year and I think where Scott can maybe improve as a player is just try to get to anywhere between 10 and 15 goals a season," United's former No.7 stated.
"As a central midfield player, if you stay away from injury, you can achieve that and I think Scott’s got that in his locker."
At least one thing is certain for McTominay, his versatility will do him no harm in the long-term at Old Trafford.
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