Opinion: Fred's the real deal for United
Manchester United's biggest summer buy, Fred, made his Premier League debut against Leicester City at Old Trafford.
United’s association with Brazilian footballers began with the introduction in 2002 of midfielder Kleberson. In truth, it has not been as successful a production line between the Reds and the South Americans as you would imagine it could have been. On paper, it should have been a match made in heaven.
Popular right-back Rafael enjoyed some success and there were fleeting highlights from Anderson, but overall our link with Brazilians has never quite hit the heights.
But, 15 years on from Kleberson, the baton has been passed onto 25-year-old Fred to attempt to light up that love affair.
Back in 2003, Kleberson was just a year on from being the so-called driving force behind Brazil’s 2002 World Cup triumph in Japan. The original Ronaldo was the hero against Germany in a 2-0 triumph but it was the quiet man Kleberson who provided the platform for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side.
When he arrived at Old Trafford, there was another Ronaldo, Cristiano, stealing the limelight, with both making their starting debuts that August against Wolves at Old Trafford.
Kleberson didn’t really hit the ground running and two games later was sidelined with a dislocated shoulder. Old Trafford didn't prove to be a happy place for the South American.
Fred now has the opportunity to ensure United and Brazil is a successful partnership. There was no Ronaldo to distract United fans from the biggest summer acquisition by manager Jose Mourinho. The summer purchase from Shakhtar Donetsk was the main man – and the only man, as far as the new faces were concerned – in United’s Premier League opener against Leicester.
Having not played for Brazil in the World Cup in Russia, despite being in the squad, Fred had the minutes in his legs from his involvement in United’s pre-season tour of the USA, and against Bayern Munich in Germany.
And he was up and running against Leicester. There were no problems getting into the pace of the Premier League for the 25-year-old. He was up to speed and proved he’d be no pushover in English engine-room battles.
When Mourinho signed him back in June, the manager was at pains to insist the midfielder was not a replacement for the retired and new coach member Michael Carrick.
“Fred is a technical player,” said Mourinho. “Having people in the squad like Matic, Fellaini, Pogba, even Herrera – physical people, strong – we think players like Fred and Andreas Pereira – more technical, more quality of passing, playing in short spaces – will maybe connect with the attacking players. We thought that he could be an important player for us – but let's wait.
"There is no Michael Carrick successor,” he added. “Michael Carrick is Michael Carrick and there is no successor.”
But there was a hint of Carrick and more about Fred against Leicester. He displayed vision, craft, imagination and an engine to match that of Ji-sung Park.
He covered the ground, picked out passes and got stuck in – as Leicester’s James Maddison will testify, as the Brazilian picked up his first yellow card in English football. When the no.17 went up on the electronic subs board in the 76th minute and Fred was replaced by Scott McTominay, the standing ovation from the Old Trafford crowd said it all.
Fred the Red can be more than a mascot for Manchester United now.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.