Fred: Of course I know the chant - I'm so grateful!
Fred has thanked the Manchester United fans for relentlessly supporting him throughout his debut season at Old Trafford, and vowed to pay them back with more top-rate performances – like the combative and acclaimed display he produced at Paris Saint-Germain.
On Wednesday evening, on a rain-soaked night in France, our no.17 was handed a start in the UEFA Champions League last-16 second leg against PSG and unquestionably rose to the occasion, playing a vital role in securing a miraculous 3-1 win on the night that clinched qualification on away goals.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said afterwards that Fred had enjoyed his breakthrough moment and, days later, at the Aon Training Complex, we sat down with the broad-smiling midfielder for a detailed conversation about his big night, those celebrations and a certain chant that includes his name…
“It is really satisfying and pleasing to get that victory on Wednesday because going into that game everyone had written us off and given up on us as if we had been beating. So to get that victory and turn that around, congratulations need to go to the entire squad because we were missing a lot of players. Wednesday really demonstrated our strength as a group. We are really happy to be in the next round. It was a wondering, really satisfying and gratifying experience.”
Did you know much about United’s great history of staging comebacks, and did Ole stress that before the game?
“Yeah we knew about the history of Manchester United in terms of comebacks. This is a massive club and the shirt is really important. We were well aware of it. What Mr Ole spoke to us about the game – really calmly – he made sure that we had our heads held high. He is somebody who has been there and who has turned games around. So he gave us strength in that sense. We did it, we got the victory.”
Did you enjoy the goal celebrations? The videos of the players with the fans were amazing, and it looked like you in particular had a big release of emotion…
“I was really happy when we scored that goal and even more so at the final whistle, because so much had been happening. But on Wednesday night I had the chance to be on the pitch, do my best and help the team out. In that sense it was so satisfying and in my career that is one of the greatest celebrations that I have had – the victory and the celebration of the victory, not just for me in a personal sense but for the fans, the club and everything that Manchester United represents.”
Ole said it was a breakthrough performance for you against PSG – did it feel like that for you?
“Of course. Things have been difficult for me. I have been out of the team and that has been frustrating, but I have never let that get me down and have never let my head go down. I have trained hard, worked really hard and I knew that my time would come. Wednesday night really represented a good and important [moment] for me to be my best for Professor Ole. Ole, Michael Carrick and the coaching team had been talking to me, helping me to prepare for this moment. Yes, I believe that on Wednesday, when I came off the pitch, I felt that this was a turning point for me and an important moment. At the same time, I need to keep my feet on the ground. I have still got a lot of hard work to put in, we haven’t won anything yet. I need to continue working hard. We, as a team, need to continue working hard so that we can put Manchester United back on top where we belong."
“Man, since I arrived here the fans have always been behind me, even when I didn't play that well in some games, when I played badly in a few games. The fans always supported and believed in me, even when I was out of the team. As I said before, I'm really happy today, being able to get on the pitch and give something back to the fans for the love and care they've shown me by doing my best on the pitch. So I'm really happy and of course we know the song, I hear the fans singing it a lot. I feel really grateful to the Man United fans and whenever I'm on the pitch I'll aim to do my best for all the fans to get the win and make them happy. “
The chant is based on the song Waterfall by an iconic Manchester band called The Stone Roses, whose other song This is the One is also played at Old Trafford when you’re in the tunnel. I know you like a different kind of music, but had you heard of them before?
“I'd not heard their music before, but I'm going to look them up and have a listen. Sometimes when we're coming on to the pitch we're so focused we don't really hear it, but I'm definitely going to check them out.”
“Round about the time when we were waiting for the referee to consult the VAR, there were so many things going around our heads. Man, I was stood nearby and I could see the camera, and the video, and I was really hoping we would get the penalty and we did. Marcus Rashford stepped up and he was an absolute giant to take that responsibility in such a decisive and important game. Other players in those circumstances wouldn’t do it. They would say no and turn it now. He was really strong in that sense and we owe our qualification to him.”
You had some very special visitors to the dressing room in Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona – had you met them before?
“I had met Sir Alex Ferguson previously. He comes to watch us train sometimes and it is such an honour to be nearby such a great figure. That was the first time I had met Eric Cantona and again it was an honour, to be around these two people who represent so much in the history of the club. And they love the club. To have them in the changing room creates such a wonderful atmosphere. We understand that they represent part of the club with the success that they have had, the trophies and titles that they have won. We really want to hear from them and absorb their experience and knowledge into our team.”
Finally, do you care who we get in the quarter-final draw?
“We can’t choose who we play against and in the Champions League of course, they are all big teams, and they all represent difficult adversaries, difficult opposition, they will all be tough games. We are prepared for whoever we are drawn against. We will do our best, we will go all out for the victory and we want to win the Champions League trophy.”
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