Fred: I want to make history here
In the early hours of Sunday morning, UK time, Manchester United midfielder Fred will attempt to help Brazil retain their Copa America crown when they face Argentina in the final at the Maracana Stadium.
On home soil, the competition’s defending champions will look to claim the tournament's honours for the second time in the space of three years when they come up against their arch rivals in Rio de Janeiro at 01:00 BST.
Fred has played in five of his nation’s six games in the tournament and joins Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford as one of four current Reds hoping to make it a weekend to remember on the international stage, with the latter trio being in England’s squad of course for their Euro 2020 final clash with Italy.
But before that game at Wembley, our no.17 is seeking his own continental success with Brazil over in South America. And ahead of his meeting with Lionel Messi and co, we thought we would revisit an exclusive Inside United interview with him in which he talks about playing for United, football in his home country and much more...
“Ah man, I wasn’t even expecting this, it took me by surprise when you just told me now. I’m really pleased, I’m really happy, it represents a great landmark for me, it’s what everyone aims for. I hope I can play many more games for United. I’d like to leave a legacy here. It’s somewhere all players want to be, so I look to do my best, play in many more games and make history here.”
How do you feel the squad and the team has developed in the time you’ve been here?
“Obviously some players came in, others moved on. I think right now we have a very united group. Our group is heading in just one direction, we’re all looking in the same direction, at our objectives for the season. Now, with the arrival of some players, we have a very strong squad. I think we have one of the best squads in England and we hope to continue working together as a squad, aim to do our best so that we can achieve our objectives.”
The 2020/21 season was so busy, with a truncated schedule. Did it mean that your training timetable looked very different, with more emphasis on recovery rather than focusing on tactics?
“It really depended [on the games]. Sometimes the day after a game we had recovery work and two days later there was a game, so sometimes there wasn’t much time left to look at tactics. Sometimes there was a three-day rest period and you could work on tactics. It varied and we needed to know how to deal with it in terms of physical preparation and how to balance these things in training. But the staff here know what they are doing.”
How much do you personally enjoy the day-to-day training, and which player in the squad would you say is the ultimate trainer?
“Man, we have to make the most of our day-to-day training and always be happy. I always arrive here happy to be training. It’s difficult to single out just one player, we all have a strong desire to train, training sessions here are brilliant. We all arrive really eager to train and that’s very important. It's good if you train well, you can bring that into games. Day-to-day training is really important and all the players here train really well.”
“It’s great playing with Scott, he’s a great young player who is seriously hard-working. Despite his age he’s very experienced so I’m really happy to be playing alongside him. As I already said, we have a very good squad with great midfield players – Matic, Pogba, van de Beek can play in there as well. Whoever is playing there, you know that it will be a great partnership, and I’m sure this will always help Manchester United.”
Earlier in the year we passed the one-year anniversary of Bruno Fernandes at United – if you could describe Bruno in three words, what words would you use?
“[Laughs] Magnifico, magical and… the best in his position in the world now.”
What was your own personal favourite performance last season?
“I think it in was the first game against PSG, I think I had a great game there. We all played really well and won 2-1. It was a great game from us. I think I played very well against RB Leipzig at home. There are a lot of games where I’ve been really satisfied with my performances, it’s difficult to choose just one game. I’m really happy with my good performances and I hope to continue helping the team, and that we can continue growing together, getting better and better with each game.”
Did you watch the last Copa Libertadores final, which was between two Brazilian teams? Were you supporting Palmeiras or Santos?
“[Laughs] I managed to watch it on the bus coming back from the Arsenal game. I thought it was a good game, both teams really defended a lot. Neither team wanted to lose the game but congratulations to Palmeiras, they had a great game and had a great season. I have friends there who were supporting them.”
Do you watch a lot of football from around the world on television?
“Yes, I really like watching a lot of games, particularly Brazilian. I watch a lot of football, both league and cup, Spanish football, English football here. I’m someone who absolutely loves football, so at home I’m always watching football. I really enjoy it.”
Looking ahead, what do you think this squad of players can achieve?
“Like I said, I think our ambition should be to win trophies, I think we have a very good squad. We can’t be satisfied with just anything, I think we should aim to win all the competitions we’re in. I think we’re capable of this. I think our ambition is to do our very best to make this happen.”
Have you allowed yourself to dream of the moment when you will walk out of the tunnel at Old Trafford and there is a stadium full of fans, with 75,000 cheering you on? What will be your emotions at that point?
“I think it will be great when all our fans come back, it will be a really good feeling because we played for over a year without fans. Sadly you end up getting used to it, but it’s awful [without them].”
What is your message to those fans?
“I can only say thank you to all the fans who support us. They are always with us, whether we win or lose the game. We can only thank our supporters and tell them that we are going to do our best. We’ll aim to win all the competitions we’re playing in and I’m sure we will be bringing a trophy home.”
Supporters in the UK can watch Fred and Brazil take on Argentina live in the Copa America final on BBC iPlayer, Red Button and on the BBC Sport website, while the game is also being broadcast around the world.