Can Fred continue to improve under Ten Hag?
Today marks the four-year anniversary of Fred joining Manchester United in 2018 and, while the Brazilian would admit his journey has included challenges, nobody can question his commitment to the team, passion for the badge and obvious improvement on the pitch.
The smiling South American then arrived at Old Trafford in 2018 and he struggled to make an impact during a difficult first season, making just 25 appearances across all competitions, but it didn’t deter him. If anything, that setback only enhanced his desire to work harder and get better.
Fred made 48 appearances in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons as a consistent presence in central midfield, and his relentless work ethic began to win the admiration of most supporters.
Fans wanted more end product, yet Fred remained positive and, in 2021/22, produced his best work in a turbulent campaign for the team. The 29-year-old actually played fewer games than before (36) but he was much more effective and finished with 10 goal involvements (four goals, six assists), including an influential strike in a blood-and-thunder battle with Leeds United at Elland Road.
Fred’s growing popularity was underlined by his third-placed finish in the voting for our prestigious Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, behind David De Gea and winner Cristiano Ronaldo. It was and is a commendable achievement for a player who has continually overcome numerous obstacles as a Red.
“I hope he can become even better under Erik ten Hag,” says United legend Wes Brown in our latest episode of The Debate. “First of all, Fred always gives 100 per cent and, when I watch him, I love that. You need that in your team and you need players to be doing that.
“I think he got better and better as the season went on, he came into his game a little bit more. I still think we need players in that position, but Fred, for me, is a great player to have in the squad: he gives you that energy, he gets about, he does the nasty work and you need players who do that.
“Not everybody can play the same, it's as simple as that. Fred starts the play off very well, he gets the ball back and people can then react from his movements. He has been here for four years now, he has improved a lot in that time and last season was probably his best.”
It has been well documented there will be changes to our squad this summer as Ten Hag implements his philosophy on the club, which may include a change in system and particularly in midfield.
Respected journalist James Ducker of The Telegraph feels that could suit Fred based on his attitude, previous performances and role in the international set-up.
“For Brazil, he plays either side of a pivot, he's up and down, and Scott McTominay is a bit like that, but they've actually been played as two holding midfielders,” says Ducker in The Debate.
“I think with Fred, that is not his strength, receiving the ball from the defence under pressure on the half turn, but maybe if he is playing either side in a 4-3-3, that is maybe where he's at his best and I think those games where he has played in that position have often been his best performances.
“I will be really interested to see, for all of the players they could potentially bring in, what Ten Hag does with Fred next season.”
Watch our new episode of The Debate for more United views.