Fred: I hope he doesn't line up against us!
Manchester United midfielder Fred has joked that he hopes talented Leeds United forward and compatriot Raphinha won’t be fit enough to feature for the home side on Sunday.
The 24-year-old is currently struggling with injury and is a doubt for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, ahead of the first Roses top-flight meeting at Elland Road in 18 years. The latest update is that he has not trained yet but could still be rushed back for the eagerly anticipated encounter.
Earlier this week, team-mate Bruno Fernandes said he wanted to go up against, and beat, the Brazilian, who he is good friends with after their shared spell in Portugal.
But Fred recognises the ability of a player who has caught the eye in England since signing from Rennes, and believes we will have a better chance of victory if Raphinha – a supporter of Fred’s former club Internacional – doesn’t play.
“Bruno's been talking about Raphinha ever since he arrived. They played together at Sporting,” said Fred.
“He's a great player having an amazing season and a lot of clubs have their eye on him. I met him recently, great guy, excellent player but... I hope he won't be lining up against us! [laughs]
“I wish him a quick recovery and a lot of success in his career. He's a stand-out star player for Leeds so, of course, it's better for us if he's not on the pitch.
“If he does play, we'll look to mark him carefully and work on our game-plan as best as possible. We'll try to nullify his threat to come out on top in this game.”
United are currently on a 23-match unbeaten run away from home, which is the joint-second longest sequence in English top-flight history.
The 3-1 win at Tottenham a fortnight ago brought us level with Arsenal’s 2001-02 vintage, and we could move a step closer to Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003-04 – they hold the record, with 27 – by avoiding defeat on Sunday.
“Definitely, we look at the numbers that are so important in football these days,” the Brazilian continued, when asked if the run is something the squad are aware of.
“We'll aim to do our best in the games... we always do that anyway, give our all with one game coming after another.
“We're on a great run of form away from home. We've been winning, it's a great run, I hope we can keep up this winning run away from home until the end of the season.
“I also hope we can improve our home form, we've already improved a lot since the start of the season. I think we can continue on this run and finish the season really well.”