Fantastic Fred continues to thrive
Not even Fred’s most ardent supporters could have predicted just how important he would become to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season.
After a stop-start first campaign in English football, our no.17 missed the first four matches of the current Premier League term and was introduced off the bench in the following three. Yet, since then, the midfielder has been possibly the most solid and consistent member of the United squad and has missed just 11 minutes of football in the last 22 league games.
In that period, no-one has featured more than Fred, and only Harry Maguire has played more games for the Reds in all competitions this season. The regular run of matches has also helped Fred find a rhythm and routine that his game had previously lacked, while a year’s experience playing in England means he is fully up to speed with the physicality and pace of the Premier League
Fred’s showings in January demonstrated this, as he was given our Player-of-the-Month award, with stand-out performances like in the 4-0 win over Norwich City - in which he made his 50th appearance for the Reds - and in the defeat at Liverpool the following week, where Fred led our attempted second-half fightback.
It was with another trip to Merseyside where Fred, and United, began March. Again, it was a difficult afternoon, one in which the Reds had to recover from a disappointing opening 10 minutes. Yet Fred was instrumental as we dragged our way back into the contest. While it may have been Bruno Fernandes who smashed the ball past Jordan Pickford in the home goal to earn a 1-1 draw, the Portuguese midfielder was only granted so much attacking freedom due to Fred’s defensive discipline.
Four days later, it was a very different story at Pride Park, on an evening when United sealed a spot in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals. Of Fred’s four performances this month, that display against Derby County was perhaps the least spectacular, but his calmness and composure on the ball helped the Reds assert our dominance in the clash.
The possession stats told their own story, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men enjoying 62 per cent of the ball. Not even the experienced Wayne Rooney could get the better of his counterpart, and our former skipper was booked just before half-time for bringing Fred down.
Lesser midfielders would have balked at the prospect of facing Rodri’s physicality, the silkiness of Bernardo Silva and passing range of Ilkay Gundogan, but Fred took it all in his stride and emerged on top of that battle in the centre of the park. The Brazilian’s highlights reel from that afternoon included a skilful nutmeg on Oleksandr Zinchenko, repeated long, driven passes out to the wing and he also should have been awarded a penalty, late in the first half, after being brought down in the area by Nicolas Otamendi.
Our South American star finished the month off with a trip to Austria to take on LASK and achieved a first in his United career: two assists in a single game. The first came courtesy of an inch-perfect ball into Juan Mata, before the Spaniard tucked it home. The pass truly was sublime - the vision, weight and placement were perfect and it seemed to afford Mata an extra few seconds in order to get his shot away. Fred also set up the final goal of the evening when his quick free-kick was laid off for Andreas Pereira to strike from distance.
Without question, Fred deserves to a be a nominee for the March Player-of-the-Month award and who would bet against him adding another trophy to the one he won in January?
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