Fred Already Feels Like the Forgotten Man at Manchester United
For fans of a club like Manchester United, the European summer transfer window is always something of a bizarre experience. The club has now spent over $1 billion since it last won a Premier League title in 2013, more than many clubs have spent in their entire histories. Each summer over the last five or six years, fans have demanded new signings and new approaches. This summer, a lot of talk was about restructuring the midfield.
With just a few days to go in the transfer window, that new midfield looks increasingly unlikely to materialise. Fans rarely get what they want in these situations, but it is telling that nobody seems to be talking about Fred as a possible solution. The 26-year-old arrived at United last June, with a fee reported to be in the region of $60 million, making the Brazilian United’s fourth most expensive transfer in its history at the time.
Fred’s appearances have been limited
Let’s be frank about it: Fred has been a disappointment. Fans had hoped that his dynamism and tenacity would help United unlock other elements of the midfield, freeing up players like Paul Pogba. In almost every game, Fred looked sloppy and off the pace. His appearances were limited to just 17 games in the league, and a few more in the Champions League. For the most important games, Fred was not in the starting eleven.
Of course, it’s important to note that not every player can make it in their first season in England. Apart from the cultural shift, there is a difference in the pace of the game. Fred is not the first, nor will he be the last, Brazilian to find that adjustment difficult. Yet, there is a sense of exasperation among the United camp. Fred was late to preseason training this year (due to his wedding), and he has barely been involved in the preparations for the new season.
United have mountain to climb in title pursuit
United could badly do with the Fred who delighted Shakhtar fans in the 2017/18 season; the Fred who played well enough to get a call up to Seleção for the 2018 World Cup. United have been quoted as high as 33/1 to win the Premier League according to the online football betting with 888, even money to get a Champions League spot by finishing in the Top 4. Those odds are among the biggest United have faced in decades.
And, that’s what frustrates fans the most about Fred. The setup in United’s midfield is perfect for him. His energy, doggedness and passing ability are exactly the kind of qualities that United require, and it’s not as if the rivals for Fred’s position – Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay – have made themselves immovable in the starting eleven. Matic has severe limitations with his pace, whereas doubts still surround McTominay as a long-term solution.
It’s not always fair to question a player’s desire, but there needs to be more demonstrable evidence of that from Fred this season. He has been vocal about wanting to improve his performances, even suggested that he was excited for the new season to start. At 26, he should be at the peak of his powers. And, if he does not step up to the mark this season, it could be detrimental to his entire career. A defining season for Fred awaits.