Paul Pogba is close to a Manchester United return after returning to training last week.

There is a good chance Pogba is fit to start the FA Cup fourth round against Middlesbrough and he will get the chance to show what he can do.

United then meet Burnley, Southampton and Leeds before taking on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Pogba will want to start against Atletico and it seems logical enough that United would want to start him too. But he has to prove he deserves to be part of the first selection.

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Limited spots available in Rangnicks 4-3-3

Rangnick, after much experimentation, has settled on a 4-3-3 formation in his opening games.

This has seen him find a settled system with Scott McTominay as the deepest of the three midfielders and Fred and Bruno Fernandes both playing box-to-box roles.

That worked because it kept Fernandes from becoming too isolated as an attacking player and it also gave Fred more freedom to get up front.

To accommodate Paul Pogba, either Fred or Bruno Fernandes will have to drop out and this is where things get a bit tricky for the big games, as Rangnick lines up.

Can Pogba replace Fred?

Bruno Fernandes has 18 goal contributions, seven goals and 11 assists this season, more than any other player. He’s too good to leave out for the big games, although of course Paul Pogba would be a quality replacement.

It’s more likely United want to bring in both Pogba and Fernandes and it would be Fred to drop out.

For that to work, Pogba needs to show the same work performance as the Brazilian. Fred leads United in tackles won this season (29), while Pogba has won just three tackles in his nine Premier League games.

Fred also leads United in interceptions (32). Pogba has 12 to his name. Fred also leads United in successful pressure (110), with Pogba on 40. Bruno Fernandes is second on 95.

(Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

From an attacking perspective, Fred is starting to show some of the qualities that made United spend £47million on him in 2018. In his last seven starts, he has four assists, one goal and one penalty won.

Pogba should be an upgrade from an attacking perspective but Fred has been setting the bar high of late, coupled with his high-energy defensive work.

Rangnick can mix and match his team selection until February, but when the crucial decision is made and United’s line-up against Atletico is announced, he’ll have to leave someone out. Pogba needs to prove he deserves to be in the team ahead of Fred.

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