Just weeks after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delivered a glowing verdict on Fred’s performances, the Brazil international produced one of his most ineffective displays of the season on Saturday afternoon.
The Manchester United manager exclaimed back in December that the midfielder had grabbed his chance with both feet following the injury to Paul Pogba, and that he was sure he would “kick on and improve“.
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But despite the Red Devils’ impressive 4-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend, there is certainly an element of frustration behind the kind of performance Fred delivered.
As a central midfielder, one of the most obvious remits is helping to dictate the play and maintain the tempo in your side’s favour. And there cannot be any complaints with Fred trying to get his foot on the ball and control possession for United – he enjoyed the most touches of anyone with a Red Devils shirt with 115 to his name as per Sofascore. But whilst that was all well and good, what he actually did with it was incredibly limited.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk man managed no key passes whatsoever during the entire game, and that lack of creativity and cutting edge from deep in midfield has been one of the main reasons behind United looking toothless on occasion. In this instance, Fred’s teammates further forward like Marcus Rashford bailed him out, but similar levels of non-existent contribution in future games will be to the detriment of the side.
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And defensively against the Canaries, he looked all at sea too. He was dribbled past six times during the game (the worst of any United player), whilst also losing 12 total duels and giving up possession on 17 occasions. It was a display riddled with ineffectiveness on the ball, and a lack of solidity in trying to screen his defence.
So whilst the result for the Manchester side was very promising, the performance of their ace left a lot to be desired. And with the January transfer window open, it raises an important question for Ed Woodward to answer.
With Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay out injured, a new central midfielder may now have to be on the agenda following Fred’s insipid display. They have the chance to bring in someone who can help add a bit more creativity and thrust, and it is important the club looks to do so. If Woodward wants to secure top-four football once more, opening up the purse-strings and buying someone who can unlock the door from deep may be the catalyst for that.