Manchester United managed a respectable 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, which was a good result considering recent form.
Interim manager Michael Carrick setup a vastly changed side, which included a surprising decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo. However, in a very defensive game for United, it was Fred who stood out with his pressing and interceptions.
Over the last few weeks it seems Fred has undergone a resurgence, pressing high against Villarreal to win the ball back that led to a Ronaldo goal, while also doing well against Watford despite the loss.
Naturally the buzz around United is currently regarding confirmation of incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who is notorious for his famous gegenpressing system. This combined with Fred’s recent improved performance has sparked conversation around the potential for Fred to become an integral player under the new United boss.
Rangnick, if confirmed as new interim manager, will undoubtedly bring a higher intensity pressing game to United– one which will favour players with energy and tenacity. This new approach and setup could be brilliant for the 28-year-old Brazilian Fred, who thrives when working to press the opposition and intercept loose balls.
In the current United setup, it seems like Fred is given more licence as a traditional defensive midfielder, something which Fred is certainly not, mainly due to his lack of quality on the ball. However, in a system that relies less on dithering on the ball but rather quick interceptions and passes forward, Fred could be transformed.
German coach Rangnick is a bit of a godfather in football, his revolutionary gegenpressing system a model used by a plethora of modern coaches; including Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp. This is a testament to the knowledge and experience of the incoming Manchester United manager, who may be able to get the best out of Fred.
It’s not just Rangnick’s system that may benefit Fred though, it’s his attention to detail and meticulous individual coaching too, something that Fred hasn’t had a lot of in recent years at United. It’s clear that Fred isn’t going to produce an artful world-class display week in week out, but if coached correctly, he can stick to a game plan and carry it out very well.
The debate around whether United have actually had any concrete tactics or game plan in recent years rages on, but rest assured Rangnick will bring all of that and more- which will be to the benefit of several United players. Additionally, Fred is unlike any other current United players in the sense that he’s an engine, covering every blade of grass in most performances.
This attribute is rare (especially at United presently) and paired with a cohesive tactical plan it will reap the benefits for the team in the future.
Just like fellow United midfielder Paul Pogba, Fred seems to excel or play generally well when playing for his country, but this is not replicated at club level. This repeated pattern of players performing at national level but not for United is a syndrome of sorts for the club, but it has to be indicative of a fundamental issue somewhere at a tactical or management level.
Once again United’s failure to get the best out of Fred, a player with marvellous potential, is more reflective of the mismanagement of the club in terms of planning and scouting for specific positions, while also not focusing enough on tactics in depth.
Gone are the days where United can sign a multifunctional midfielder to fill the gaps it seems, as most of the top teams now employ specialists in each position to carry out a certain tactical plan.
It’s easy to forget that Fred was a player United had signed for £47 million from Shakhtar Donetsk, which many would argue hasn’t been repaid with performances. Now with over three years at the club, Fred has mostly failed to shine and is often labelled a liability in the United squad, but some of this could be down to him being utilised inefficiently.
If Rangnick can manage to get the best out of Fred, then United could finally see a player worth his transfer value, a valuable asset to any midfield when at his best.
Written by Sam Wilson