Fred has been one of Manchester United’s most pleasant surprises during the 2019-20 season. The Brazilian international struggled to settle at Old Trafford and seemed headed for an exit at times. But patience has paid off for him. Right now, the former Shakhtar Donetsk has emerged as one of United’s best players over the last few months.
He’s coming off one of his best performances as a pro, netting two goals and adding an assist during United’s 5-0 win over Club Brugge in the UEFA Europa League last week. That match was Fred’s best effort in a United shirt. He looked comfortable, confident and in control of the game. However, things haven’t like that all the time.
It’s fair to say the Brazilian struggled when he first got to Old Trafford. He signed in June 2018, but he couldn’t find himself during the 2018-19 campaign and many believed he would leave the club during last summer. He didn’t get many first-team minutes in the opening weeks of the season, but things began to change with the injury of Paul Pogba.
Pogba’s injury was a blessing in disguise for Fred
Fred looked at his best when playing alongside Scott McTominay, and a couple of strong performances allowed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make Fred a regular name in the team’s sheet. The Brazilian didn’t disappoint, often adding accuracy and quality to a midfielder that was injected with the energy of McTominay. When the Scotsman went down with a knee injury, Fred had to play alongside Nemanja Matic, and things didn’t change.
The Brazilian midfielder found his role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical system. He has always thrived as a central midfielder. But unlike at Shakhtar where he was deployed in a deeper role, here at United he acts as the link between the defensive-minded midfielder and the more attacking-minded one. That’s where he fits best. In this role, Fred doesn’t have to carry the whole burden on either end of the pitch.
Pogba could be close to return and, when that happens, don’t be surprised if Fred heads back to the bench. After all, a midfield trio of McTominay, Pogba and Bruno Fernandes would be the best option available for The Red Devils. However, Fred should remain patient. He has proven his worth this season. Keep this up, and he could have a long-term future at the club despite his slow start.
The patient approach already worked for him once. As long as he keeps working hard, he should remain a reliable presence in midfield for years to come if he keeps playing at this level.