Manchester United take on Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday night in what could be a crucial game for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future at the club.
The Red Devils bounced back from their humiliating 5-0 thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool with a convincing victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Solskjaer surprised many by changing his entire setup for the pivotal fixture in north London, but he guided his charges to a well-deserved and comfortable three points.
One player who struggled against Spurs, losing a whopping 15 defensive duels , was Fred. And the midfielder has often been on the receiving end of criticism from certain sections of the media and fanbase alike throughout his time at Old Trafford. For instance, he was even described as “dreadful” by Roy Keane earlier this year.
Many perceive his lack of goals and assists and inability to play as a holding midfielder without someone alongside him as signs that he’s below the standard expected of a United player.
However, the Brazil international has a different set of skills that are vital for Solskjaer’s team to thrive and have success, he’s just arguably being played slightly out of position – like a lot of United’s midfield and forward options.
As per WhoScored, Fred has recorded an average of 2.4 tackles per league game this term and 2.8 defensive dribbles, meaning he’s outperforming all his teammates for both metrics, as well as making 0.8 interceptions. Those are certainly game-changing numbers.
But the South American is also proving relatively effective when in possession, averaging 56.6 passes per top-flight fixture – the second-highest tally amongst his club colleagues – with a respectable total of 0.8 key passes as well.
Solskjaer has previously praised the 28-year-old’s efforts in the engine room, claiming Fred is a “top performer” following an eye-catching display at Anfield back in 2020.
“I’m very pleased with Fred. He’s a top, top performer,” said the Norwegian tactician. “All the supporters can see now why we believe in him. He covers every blade of grass on the pitch and wins challenges. Of course, he is more confident on the ball.”
“He worked brilliantly defensively, and offensively he was the instigator of a lot that we did well.”
Therefore, Solskjaer must be controversial and keep faith with Fred as he takes his team to Bergamo with an intriguing midweek clash; he could have a huge impact upon proceedings and buy his manager some more time to turn things around in the red half of Manchester.