Can Fred be the Red Manchester United need?
Written by: Abhranil Roy
The Brazilian is the Red Devils' most high-profile signing this summer and his inclusion could decisively alter the balance of Jose Mourinho's team.
Legacy is a funny thing: it can either make you do great things or bury you under its weight. For the Manchester United midfield, it is the latter that has happened.
Once marshalled by the likes of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, it is now in the hands of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and their newest signing, Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos, or simply Fred. While individually each of them is a fine player, the system in which they have been used has failed to extract the best out of them. But more on that later. For now, we will focus on Fred and his debut on Friday night and whether he can be the answer for United’s midfield woes.
The Brazilian came for a hefty fee of £52m from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer. He was highly impressive during his time with the Ukrainian club, displaying all the attributes of a modern-day central midfielder. Being a Brazilian, he is a naturally gifted dribbler, but he is also adept at breaking the lines and providing breathtaking diagonal passes that open up spaces. The 25-year-old is also a feisty player and loves to tackle and rile up opponents. He has a wealth of experience under his belt, having played in both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League against opposition like Paris St. Germain and Napoli.
Given the fact that Jose Mourinho did not make any other midfield signings in the summer, Fred carries a lot of expectations on his shoulders. As such, he was paired with Pogba and Andreas Perreira in his side's league opener and he seems to be a mixture of energy, quality, tenacity and sloppiness. He picked a few good passes, especially those cross-field to Luke Shaw. He was also decent in tight spaces and refused to stand still and let the game pass him by.
However, the Brazilian also gave away possession a couple of times and was lucky to stay on the pitch after lashing out a kick at Leceister's Demarai Gray. He was given a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful when he was replaced, but the verdict on how good he can be is still out.
It will take a couple more games, especially against teams which press higher up the pitch to fully understand how good he really can be. However, what is beyond doubt is that he would be much more comfortable higher up the pitch. Mourinho, as he did with both Pogba and Perreira, had put a defensive leash on Fred as well, which restricted him from joining the attack. It was probably because of this frustration that he launched the aforementioned kick at Gray.
However, the Portuguese is not going to change his tactics anytime soon. So, it will be interesting to see how Fred adapts to the new role. While he definitely has the skill-set, there is a lot of work that needs to be done on his temperament and his understanding of the game to go down as the kind of midfielder that United so desperately crave.
Published: Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:33 AM IST