Jose Mourinho fielded Manchester United’s most exciting midfield trio in years for the Reds’ win over Leicester on Friday night.
Andreas Pereira and Fred were both handed their full Premier League debuts, while Paul Pogba started just four days after returning to training following his World Cup exploits with France.
It was the Frenchman who grabbed the headlines with a combination of his coolly-converted penalty, supreme all-round performance and intriguing post-match comments.
Fred showed glimpses of class on his first competitive outing in a United shirt but the composed performance of Pereira largely went under the radar.
Accustomed to playing as an attacking midfielder or as a winger, the Brazilian was deployed in holding midfield against Leicester and was superb.
He gave a good account of himself in the No.6 role during the pre-season tour of the United States but a Premier League fixture under the lights at Old Trafford is a different matter entirely.
However, far from being overwhelmed by the occasion, the Belgian-born Brazil U23 international was always keen to get his foot on the ball and, crucially, look forward with his passes.
Apart from an over-hit cross-field ball to Luke Shaw in the second half, Pereira didn’t put a foot wrong and his game intelligence ensured he was never caught out of position when Leicester were on the attack.
It’s early days for the 22-year-old but all the signs are positive that he can make that position his own in the weeks and months ahead.
Last summer’s £40million signing Nemanja Matic will have other ideas, though, as he continues his recovery from abdominal surgery that ruled him out of the start of the season.
Jose Mourinho last month said he doesn’t know when Matic will be back fit but the United manager will certainly have a decision to make when the Serb returns.
Mourinho has his favourites and Matic is one of them but Pereira offers this United team something the former Benfica midfielder doesn’t.
Pereira is clearly the more mobile player and he has a superior passing range to the 30-year-old Matic, who is a fine operator but doesn’t move the ball quickly enough when United have the chance to attack.
If United are to attempt to match City for midfield dynamism, a triumvirate of Pereira, Fred and Pogba is the best way to go about it.
Time well tell whether Mourinho reverts to type or keeps faith in his new approach.