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Remember when Fred was Manchester United’s ‘worst player’? Well, after the manner in which the Old Trafford faithful treated the Brazilian for the early parts of the 21/22 season, his career has taken a turn for the better.
This of course was all before it became obvious there were clearly other problems at play and Fred not being able to stop the gazillionth attacking transition United faced wasn’t the reason the squad were bad.
Fred will officially begin his fifth season as of next season in a United shirt, and he has never been a more important facet to Manchester United and more importantly Erik ten Hag.
The only bonafide player to come out from last season with his reputation enhanced Fred’s improvement was the best thing about Ralf Rangnick’s torrid tenure.
The midfielder improved in his attacking abilities as well as his tireless energy and rambunctious tenacity to put out fires across the pitch.
In one sequence for the equalizing goal at Atletico Madrid away at the Wanda Fred received the ball from midfield then with a quick one-two touch with his left then right foot played in Fernandes who in turn played through Elanga for the goal.
What we saw from Fred last season is perhaps the player that United thought they would get when he was first bought. We are starting to see the fabulous all round capabilities from the extremely likable midfielder.
In the 3-2 win against Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo deservedly got the plaudits but it was Fred who was the best supporting actor of the showpiece, the driving force for ‘CR7’ to shine.
Fred is predisposed and characterised as a skilful number 6 who can shield the back four, but is also crucial in United’s build-up in terms of carrying the ball from deep or progressive passing as under statistics for the season – he has the second amount of progressive passes behind Bruno Fernandes with 106.
Fred, for a long time, bore the brunt of Manchester United’s vitriol anger, and it has gone under the radar how much he turned his reputation around from ‘we need a better midfielder’ to an unsung hero.
There has been an added confidence to his game in the previous season, the flair and Joga Bonito he always possessed is coming more and more to the fore.
Whether it be nutmegging opponents on the edge of his own penalty area or producing a piece of skill that bamboozled and delighted Old Trafford against Stefan Savic, with Fred being given the freedom to play as a slightly advanced midfielder, it unleashed a whole other side to him and when Fred is playing well the joyful flair oozes from him.
It also takes the pressure away from someone like Bruno Fernandes who is basically seen as the one man creative unit in this Manchester United side, if Fred is causing more of an issue playing slightly up the pitch, displayed in his improved goal contributions (4 goals, 6 assists).
Fred was actually bought under Jose Mourinho but only made 17 appearances as he adapted to life in the Premier League, in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s debut season he similarly became a better player as United struggled for form before the arrival of Bruno Fernandes meant Solskjaer opted for a Matic-Pogba double pivot toward the end of the season as United’s good form insured a Champions League spot.
In the following season, United were walloped 6-1 at Old Trafford by Tottenham Hotspur, which saw the emergence of Solskjaer leaning toward the pivot of ‘McFred’ (Scott Mctominay and Fred).
Though the pair receive much criticism they were crucial in the season when United came 2nd in the Premier League and when one doesn’t play without the other or the double pivot doesn’t play United are a more vulnerable team.
Fred is still capable of the erratic game, and when he’s bad he’s extremely bad like the beginning of last season. But aside from the early jitters, Fred was in the form of his life and United fans lamented when he wasn’t in the team.
You could point to his match-winning cameo vs Leeds against as a symbol of his upturn in form, with United rocked after losing a 2-0 lead, Fred pressed Leeds from the front and got United moving up the pitch and scored a spectacular goal to boot.
Erik ten Hag will be looking at Fred as a starter, his pressing from midfield is once again just behind Fernandes as the second most in the team.
If ten Hag is to play the same ‘Guardiola’ style football where control is the aim of the game to suffocate opposition up the pitch with pressing Fred is set to be a vital cog in midfield especially with United still having not signed another defensive midfielder.
United commonly struggle with getting the ball from defence to midfield to attack in an in-sync manner, but with Fred’s ball-carrying, defensive output, lung-bursting energy and newfound ability offensive abilities he was the silver lining in the dark nebula that was Manchester United’s 2021-22 season, and under ten Hag he is a player Fred can become as quintessential to usher in the Dutchman’s era.
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