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Bryan Robson: Fred will add much-needed creativity and balance to Manchester United’s midfield

Manchester United legend Bryan Robson has suggested that the clubs new signing, Brazilian midfielder Fred, will add more creativity to Jose Mourinho’s squad during his debut season. Fred’s long-awaited transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk was confirmed on Thursday afternoon after the player completed a medical on Monday 4th June 2018, whilst in the United Kingdom for a pre-FIFA World Cup friendly against Croatia, also with the squad training in London at the time, ahead of the tournament in Russia, which started a week ago.

Robson, a United player from 1981 until 1994, making a total of 461 appearances for the club, scoring 99 goals, has stated that the Brazilian’s qualities will add more balance to the current squad, especially after the retirement of former captain Michael Carrick at the end of the season. Robson captained United himself, still the longest-serving captain the club has ever seen. Speaking to the official Manchester United website, the former United number seven said:

“I think everybody was saying that we just needed a bit more mobility and a little bit more creativity in that midfield area. Fred definitely gives you that. He’s been very good for Shakhtar, so hopefully, he can take to the Premier League and do really well for United.”

During the past season whilst at Shakhtar Donetsk, Fred made 37 appearances, playing every single minute of their UEFA Champions League campaign, which saw them play eight matches before exiting the competition, at the same stage as United. The 25-year-old has impressed against Manchester City during the group stages of the competition, with the Ukrainian side becoming the first team to beat Pep Guardiola’s side during the 2017/18 season, a season which few achieved the plaudits for.

Robson is no stranger to Brazilian players, something Mourinho had given a clue about towards the end of the season with United not having a single Brazilian in the squad with Andreas Pereira on loan at Valencia last season. Whilst managing Middlesbrough, Robson two high-profile Brazilian players in Juninho and Emerson. Speaking about the great determination of players from the South American country, Robson continued by saying:

“I didn’t have any difficulties with them [Juninho and Emerson]. Brazilians are tough characters, and mentally tough. The thing in Brazil is, if you don’t prove yourself in Europe, you’re not really a top-class player – that’s why they all like to come across to Europe and prove themselves.

“So I’m sure Fred, coming from Ukraine to the Premier League, will be tough enough and ambitious enough to want to do really well for United. I don’t think there will be any problems setting in as far as he’s concerned.”

Fred’s career at United will be something that many cannot wait to see. He is currently in the Brazil squad for the World Cup in Russia, with his country playing once already, a 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Sunday. Fred has yet to make an appearance in the World Cup after suffering a training injury in the days running up to the tournament. He is on the bench for his country in their second group stage match against Costa Rica on Friday afternoon.

Fred will become the seventh Brazilian to play for the Old Trafford club with Kleberson, Anderson, Rodrigo Possebon, Rafael and Fabio da Silva, and Andreas Pereira all ahead of him. Kleberson really did not make much of an impact at the club, neither did Possebon. Anderson had some moments in a United shirt during his time at the club and both Rafael and Fabio did some good things for the club during their time. Pereira has not really had much of a chance in the first team yet, but could find himself being more involved this coming season.

Red Icons: A look back at the career of Captain Marvel, Bryan Robson

Bryan Robson joined Manchester United from West Bromwich Albion for a then-record £1.5 million in 1981 and went on to be one of the most important players in United’s history. He wore the number 7 shirt for the club but was very different to those who would wear it after him, the likes of Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and the Cristiano Ronaldo, to name the most decorated. He went on to make 461 appearances, falling just shy of a century of goals on 99.

Very few players can be truly considered the ‘complete midfielder’, but the man who was nicknamed ‘Captain Marvel’ has a genuine claim to that. He had a strong passing range, was aggressive in the tackle, and had an eye for goal as his goals to games ratio suggests. He became an important figure in the United dressing room too, taking over from Ray Wilkins as club captain.

His skills were recognised by his country too, as he also wore the armband for England. He was capped 90 times, and in that time he scored 26 goals, putting him 13th on the all-time top scorers for the Three Lions. Robson was greatly appreciated by his first manager at United, Ron Atkinson, who was also his manager at West Brom. He knew of Robson’s ability when he brought him to United, saying:

“With this player, you’re not taking a gamble, what you’re buying is pure gold.”

But it was not just his ability which made him a firm favourite with his team-mates and United fans alike. He appreciated the importance of team spirit and this was embodied best at the end of the 1982-83 season in the FA Cup final replay against Brighton and Hove Albion. United won the game 4-0, with Robson scoring two of the four goals. It was remembered more for Robson’s decision to allow designated penalty taker, Arnold Muhren, to take the penalty rather than trying to grab his hat-trick.

The following season saw what may have been an even more memorable brace from the man from Chester-Le-Street. Needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final against Barcelona, Robson scored two goals to inspire United to a 3-0 victory. The euphoria around Old Trafford was evident as some fans invaded the pitch, lifting Robson aloft.

Despite Atkinson winning the FA Cup twice whilst Robson was at United, Robson’s mentor was sacked and replaced by a certain Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson. Despite a mixed start to Ferguson’s United Career, Robson continued to put in stellar performances. Despite Robson being a pivotal part of all the United teams he played for, ironically United’s first league title since the 1966-67 season came in a season when Robson lost his place as one of the first names on the manager’s teamsheet.

The following season saw United win the league again, with Robson once again playing a far smaller role than he was used to. However, it was a fitting moment when he joined Steve Bruce, who had captained United for most of the season with Robson spending most of the season on the bench, to lift the trophy.

He stopped playing after he left United and began a managerial career which included spells at West Brom and Middlesbrough. He has since re-joined United in an ambassadorial capacity, promoting the club on a global level as a brand along with the likes of Dwight Yorke, Dennis Irwin, and Dwight Yorke. Robson remains a club legend and was fully deserving of his nickname, Captain Marvel.

Written by Rob Potter

copyright: JW