Erik: Fred is like a mosquito!
Erik ten Hag compared Fred’s midfield tenacity against Barcelona to being like that of a mosquito, as our Brazilian metronome delivered a relentless display to help us come from behind to beat the Catalan giants 2-1 at Old Trafford.
After last week’s thrilling 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp, the Reds came into Thursday’s hotly anticipated second leg at Old Trafford against a backdrop of excitement, and the Old Trafford atmosphere was rocking at kick-off as a result.
Despite a quick start, United went behind to a contentious Robert Lewandowski penalty early in the first half, meaning there was work to be done heading into the final 45 minutes. Fortunately, Fred and his compatriot, Antony, struck to turn the game on its head in the second half and send United into the last 16 of the Europa League.
Fred’s right-footed strike came inside two minutes of the half-time restart, coming at a crucial moment to draw us level, and when the Brazilian went for goal again in the 73rd minute, the ball rebounded back for Antony to guide in the winner.
Although Fred provided goal contributions in both legs, Ten Hag explained that the Brazilian’s role across both ties had significance all over the pitch.
“He had an important role already last week in Barcelona, this week the same,” the Dutchman told reporters in his post-match press conference.
“He had first to stop Frenkie de Jong from playing, he had to play as a mosquito around him and go behind him and he did it magnificently.
“Last week, I think he gave a brilliant assist for Rashy [Marcus Rashford] in Barcelona, and today he scored the goal. A brilliant performance.”
Expanding on that point in a separate interview with BT Sport, Erik also spoke of how Fred contributed to our attacking play beyond his involvement in the goals.
"I think so [he can play further forward]," he said in response to a question from ex-Red Paul Scholes. "What he can do really well is make runs behind in the right moment, he has the timing, to get behind the midfielders of Barcelona was part of our game-plan in Barcelona and now again, it was really effective to make the runs."
It was another fine display from our no.17, who is approaching 200 appearances in a Red shirt following his move from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer of 2018.
Indeed, he was voted our Man of the Match by supporters using the United App.
Erik’s recognition of the midfielder’s attacking contribution is no surprise, either, with Fred now up to five goals for the season, the best tally he has achieved in a single campaign during his time at Old Trafford.
He’s now also scored in all four competitions we’ve played in this term, with his crucial effort against Barça his first strike in European competition since a brace in a 5-0 win over Club Brugge, almost exactly three years ago.