Leicester City knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win at the King Power Stadium on Sunday. The Foxes booked a berth in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 39 years, ending Manchester United's 29-game unbeaten run on the road in domestic competitions.
On a night where Manchester United's shoddy defense shipped in three goals and their midfield was bossed by their opposite numbers, Fred was United's worst player on the pitch.
Leicester's 12th man
The Brazilian midfielder put on a disastrous display on Sunday and was an absolute liability from the first whistle. The Brazilian repeatedly gave possession away in key areas in midfield, which led to a number of Leicester's attacks.
The most surprising aspect of the game was not Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making four substitutions at once in the 64th minute, but how Fred survived stayed on the pitch for 84 minutes without being subbed off.
Fred was at fault for the first goal, sending a ball into Kelechi Iheanacho's path at the edge of the penalty box, which the in-form forward converted. Fred was guilty again for Leicester's second after he failed to disrupt or challenge Youri Tielemans before the latter netted to give the Foxes their second goal.
Meanwhile, Fred's regular midfield partner Scott McTominay was no different. The 24-year-old, who came on after an hour, defended horrendously, making a mistimed jump to prevent Iheanacho's attempt.
Manchester United's issues at the back were again visible on Sunday night. The Red Devils are facing the consequences of not having a proper central defensive midfielder (CDM).
Manchester United's double pivot in midfield
The holding midfielder role has been a position that the club have ignored. They do not seem to be interested in strengthening in that area of the pitch anytime soon. A CDM has been long overdue at United and the team requires reinforcements in the summer.
Nemanja Matic's days as a midfield enforcer are long gone and the midfield pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred isn't good enough to match United's aspirations. The duo, however, does shield the less mobile centre-back pairing of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. As a result, Solskjaer has compromised his team's creativity by accommodating two players who are not truly holding midfielders.
A CDM is a team's primary defender - stopping opposing attacks in their tracks. However, Both Fred and McTominay lack the defensive discipline and the creativity to play in the lone number 6 position. Scott McTominay and Fred are squad players at best, with the latter functioning best as a box-to-box midfielder.
United are crying out for a holding midfielder, who can play alone as the pivot in a midfield three. This would give Paul Pogba the license to roam and also provide for Bruno Fernandes.
Is Declan Rice the answer?
West Ham skipper Declan Rice would fit like a glove at Manchester United. He is a true enforce in midfield and a leader, who is proven in the Premier League. Wilfried Ndidi, Denis Zakaria, and Yves Bissouma are the other names doing the rounds among the Manchester United fanbase.
However, with David Moyes keen on keeping Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal at West Ham, United could pull-off a shrewd piece of business in the summer. The Red Devils could offer Lingard plus bit of cash to bring Declan Rice to Old Trafford.
A central defensive midfielder will stabilize and strengthen Manchester United's defensive spine and should most definitely be prioritised over signing a right-winger. United have options in the right-wing position as Amad Diallo, Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, and even Marcus Rashford, could be deployed on the right flank.
With a top-four finish looking more and more likely, Solskjaer has once again exceeded expectations this season. However, he has probably hit the ceiling with the squad at his disposal. It is now time for the club's board to deliver in the summer by bringing a competent CDM to Old Trafford.