Fred's importance to United's scheme of things goes beyond numbers
- Manager Solskjaer has had a big role to play in bringing about this change in the Brazilian.
Manchester United are on a roll. After beating Austrian side LASK in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of sixteen clash in Linz 5-0, they are now unbeaten in eleven games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is experiencing a kind of second honeymoon, akin to the one he experienced when he first took charge of the club in December 2018. The Red Devils were due to face Tottenham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday but the Premier League's decision to postpone all fixtures owing to the coronavirus scare till April 4 has given them a long lay-off.
One player whose fantastic run of form has coincided with the team's is Brazilian midfielder Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos, simply known as Fred. Signed from Shakhtar Donetsk by former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho in the summer of 2018, Fred had always remained an enigma under the Portuguese. Under Solskjaer too, Fred hadn't quite impressed in the beginning but of late he has displayed why he is rated so highly by anyone who has watched him play.
Assuming a central role in United's midfield, Fred has been the catalyst of most of their attacking plays. United's aggressiveness is enhanced and curtailed in equal measures by Fred as he gets the ball rolling wherever the attackers are involved but curbs over exuberance with his prudent positioning. On Thursday against LASK too, he bagged two assists, setting up Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira. Fred is a quick decision maker who can pass the ball with precision to his teammates. New signing Bruno Fernandes and defensive minded Nemanja Matic have both benefited tremendously by playing alongside him.
In the 37 major appearances he has made for the Red Devils this season, Fred has only two goals and four assists to his name, that too only in the Europa League, which may lead to suggestions that the 27-year-old can dominate proceedings only over weaker teams, but numbers do not justify the confidence that Fred's presence gives to Manchester United. He is also among those rare players in the club who haven't got injured all season.
All in all, Fred has made close to 72 major appearances for Manchester United in which he has only one Premier League goal, against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 22 September 2018 to his name but the positivity with which he has gone about things is contagious.
Fred's creativity was never under question even as his consistency was. However, he is thriving under the faith shown upon him by Solskjaer and it has led to the him dictate terms at his own will at every Manchester United fixture. The Norwegian too has had a big role to play in bringing about this change
Published 14 Mar 2020, 11:43 IST