Early last month, as a new season honed into view with pristine hope and fresh impetus, Manchester United’s Brazilian midfielder Fred publicly declared that, after a year of struggle adapting to the Premier League, people could now expect an improvement in his performances.
It was a commendable, resolute statement. “Now I’m more used to the league and I’ve been working hard.
“I’ve talked to the manager and backroom staff, and this season is going to be better than last season. I’m sure it is going to be very successful.”
Unfortunately, in order to atone for a significantly disappointing introduction to English football – that saw him selected for only 1533 minutes and be so consistently ineffective that he ended up a peripheral, almost forgotten figure come May – it is necessary for the 26-year-old to be granted game-time and so far that has not been the case.
In United’s four games to date Fred has not even made the 16-man squad.
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Determining why this is leads us only to speculation. Perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not rate the player capped 11 times by the Selecao? Such a notion, however, is negated by the fact that Solskjaer recently decided to retain his under-whelming player and this despite Fiorentina showing a serious interest ahead of the European transfer window deadline.
Maybe, then, he has failed to impress in training? On this only those inside the Man United bubble know for certain and, besides, some doubt is cast here because the Reds have hardly been fluid, creative and wonderful in central areas on match-day; their opening rout of Chelsea an exception.
Since then the dramatic dip in form of Jesse Lingard has been widely highlighted, while United failed to break down ten-man Southampton in their last Premier League outing. They could have done with a player of Fred’s energy and astute passing that afternoon.
Especially as he is now ‘more used to the league’. Incidentally, on a related matter, Fred recently hit the headlines when he liked an Instagram post insisting he was better than the out-of-sorts Lingard.
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Given United’s midfield toils therefore it is a stretch to imagine Pogba, McTominay, and Matic pulling up trees at Carrington while Fred languishes in their shade and thus we are back to square one. Perhaps after all Solskjaer’s calm explanation that his languishing outcast is simply being reserved for when fixtures come thick and fast rings true.
Yet if the present and future of Fred is unclear what we do know is that to this juncture he has been a colossal anti-climax. Indeed, the extent to which he has disappointed has flown under the radar somewhat, largely due to the more high-profile flopping of certain team-mates, as the tweet below nails.
Fred must be considered a worse signing even than Alexis Sanchez. Manchester United spent £52m and £120,000 a week on a central midfielder who hasn't played a league minute since April and hasn't even been in a Premier League matchday squad this season.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) August 31, 2019
It was all so different when he joined in the summer of 2018, with bonuses that could still take his fee ultimately past the £60m mark.
Then he was a marauding, exciting talent capable of bossing centre-circles through clever movement and the shrewd retention of possession. Then he interested Manchester City after impressing in both Champions League games against them for Shakhtar Donetsk.
For a while Pep Guardiola even reportedly considered him the ideal eventual replacement for his ageing midfield dynamo Fernandinho.
United could sure use that Fred right now. Instead they only have a flop whose name is hardly met with resounding enthusiasm on the rare occasions when it’s read out prior to matches. Will this change?
The rest of this campaign will determine that, one way or another.