Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Fred has completely transformed his United career in the last 2 years.
Photo Courtesy: Bleacher Report
Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos, or as we better know him, ‘Pastor Fred’, joined Manchester United in the summer transfer window of 2018 for a fee in the region of €50 million. But, his start to life at the Greater Manchester club wasn’t the most ideal. In fact, he had become ‘almost a joke’, as per Martin Keown, after his first year at the club. As soon as he had the ball on his feet, he almost looked as if he had never played football before.
At times, it felt as if he had springs fit in both feet as the ball bounced away every time he touched it. Fast-forward to the present, this Fred is almost unrecognizable to the unsure player we had previously seen, putting in battling performances in the midfield. So, what has changed since then? Let’s have a look...
Fred's Role at Shakhtar Donetsk
Fred came in with the reputation of being the energy of the midfield engine
Photo Courtesy: Football Whispers
The Brazilian played as RCM in a 4-2-3-1 for Shakhtar. In possession, he used to act as the deep-lying playmaker, playing the ball between the lines and dictating the tempo of the game. When out of possession, Fred had the role of a ball-winning midfielder. He was very aggressive in closing down players and excellent in winning the ball. Statman Dave described him as a ball-winning, deep-lying playmaker.
He was really energetic and occupied various positions in possession. His biggest strength seemed to be his two-footedness, allowing him to play the ball on either side of the pitch with ease. He was calm on the ball and his off-the-ball movement allowed him more space and time to make forward passes. He was very good at breaking the play and making those line-breaking passes that allowed his team to quickly break forward with his driving runs.
50 Million Down The Drain?
The Brazilian was painful to watch in his first season at Old Trafford
Image Courtesy: Daily Mail
Okay, why does this sound so familiar? Anyways, Fred came to Old Trafford with the reputation of being exactly the box-to-box midfielder Manchester United needed. He seemed to possess all the qualities of a certain N’Golo Kante, along with a better ball-playing capability. Well, we couldn’t see these traits in him during his first year at Manchester United. Maybe I’m a bit too blatant, but he was absolutely shambolic.
The Brazilian was all over the field and never in the right position. He couldn’t bear with the physicality of the English game and wasn’t able to reproduce the ball-winning capability that he showed at Shakhtar. His passes almost turned out to assist the opposition. He was always frantic with the ball at his feet. After just a year in PL, he seemed to be unfit for the English game. Even Solskjaer couldn’t seem to trust him initially and preferred McTominay and Matic over the Brazilian.
Fred is the Glue Holding Manchester United’s Midfield Together
Image Courtesy: Squawka
A lot of things have changed since Fred’s arrival. The manager under whom he signed was sacked just after 5 months of his arrival. The new interim and eventually permanent manager was a club legend who came in with the Manchester United DNA and focused on youth players. There was a lot of turbulence at the club. And just maybe all these sudden changes affected his performance.
Although it can’t possibly be an excuse for his on-field displays. He wasn’t even part of the squad for the first month of the 19/20 season. But, the Brazilian midfielder has worked really hard on himself, and finally, his work is showing results. After Matic was ruled out from October till December through an injury, Fred finally had the chance to showcase his abilities. The Brazilian went on to start the next 23 games for Manchester United and was one of the most consistent players of the team.
Good Chemistry brewing between Fred and McTominay
Image Courtesy: MEN
The ex-Shakhtar man seemed to be getting back to his best and formed a formidable partnership with McTominay in the midfield double-pivot. He was the most improved player in the squad and arguably one of the best performers. In fact, many of us, including me, lauded him as a contender for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award. Such was his improvement.
Of course, the arrival and impact of Bruno Fernandes somewhat overshadowed Fred’s feats. But in a short span of time, from being a ‘clown’ he has become a key player for The Red Devils. His recent performances against PSG and RB Leipzig have been nothing short of world-class for a CM. Winning the ball in crucial areas and running the midfield engine. That’s his job. And he’s finally doing well in his role.
Areas for Improvement
Fred’s Passing Range
Image Courtesy: Sky Sports
Although Fred has improved drastically from his first campaign, there are still areas he needs to work upon. The Brazilian, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t have the best first touch. He has definitely improved but he still needs some polishing on his ball control. His passing range has been a bit limited as well for Manchester United. While he’s great at reading the opposition when defending and make tackles, he lacks some vision while going forward.
He doesn’t possess the creativity of a Bruno or Pogba. In general, Fred lacks goals and assists in him. He does have the ability to make line-breaking passes as we’ve seen from his Shakhtar days and even in recent games. But he needs to get into positions from where he can threaten the opposition goal.
I’m really impressed with Fred’s improvement and I would love it if he can work on his weaknesses. The best part about this is that he knows his weaknesses and he acknowledged them. In a recent interview, the Brazilian assessed the weak points of his game and stated that he intends to work upon them and improve as a player. He’s a really passionate and hard-working player and I’m just starting to like him more and more.
What are your thoughts on Fred?
What other areas do you think he needs to work upon? Please leave your thoughts in the comments...
Hitanshu (@TheDevilsDen_92) is a writer at large, and one of the global contributors to the Daily Manc team. He is also the creator and chief editor of The Devil's Den.
All opinions and materials of contributor writers are solely their own and do not necessarily represent positions held by The Daily Manc.