Friday 20 July 2018

Fred transfer to Manchester United: What type of player is he, where will the £52m signing fit in, who could miss out?

Fred
Fred

Daniel Zeqiri

Manchester United have announced their second summer signing: Brazilian midfielder Fred. Jose Mourinho is continuing to strengthen his United squad as he aims to mount a serious challenge to Manchester City next season.

City were also keeping tabs on Fred but turned their attentions to Napoli's Jorginho, leaving the path clear for United to complete a £52 million deal. So what can Old Trafford regulars expect from their new acquisition and why have United targeted him?

Career to date...

Fred's path is a well-trodden one for Brazilian players, moving from Internacional to Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. Shakhtar has proven a fertile development ground over the past decade and more, with Fernandinho, Willian and Douglas Costa all passing through on their way to European football's elite. Bernard, Alex Teixera and Luiz Adriano were other successful exports, among others.

Much like the Portuguese league, Ukraine has been an ideal 'stepping stone' destination for south American players to acclimatise to the rhythms of European football away from the glare of the big four or five leagues.

Fred did make Brazil's final 23-man squad for the Russia World Cup, though is likely to be used as a rotation option by Tite. This is no cause for concern for United fans - Brazil struck upon a well-balanced trio of Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho en route to Russia, with Philippe Coutinho sometimes occupying one of those roles against weaker opponents. So Fred's place on the bench is not a reflection of his talent, so much as Tite's desire to stick with a successful formula.

What type of player is he?

The central midfielder has quite a rounded skill-set, but it is the quality of Fred's passing that will have caught United's eye. A left-footer, the 25-year-old plays early, forward passes when the chance presents itself. Crucially, as United look to speed up their attacks, a glance at his highlights reel shows a willingness to punch the ball into the space behind defences rather than to the nearest pair of boots.

Fred is certainly not a midfield 'destroyer' in the traditional sense, but does possess the mobility to cover ground and fulfil his defensive duties. United were over-reliant on Michael Carrick for far too long, while the presence of Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini also made them ponderous in possession. Mourinho's side have desperately needed a midfield metronome to add tempo to their play, and Fred will be an instant improvement in this regard. In short, Fred will be categorised as a 'box-to-box' midfielder, but he more of a controlling presence than a goal-threat.

Where will he fit in?

This is the most interesting aspect of the move. Since Mourinho's arrival at Old Trafford, it has been difficult to discern a clear idea other than buying a collection of talented, but disparate, players. At times, Mourinho looks stranded between the pragmatic instincts that served him well and the historic pressure on United to play expansively. Were Fred joining Pep Guardiola's City or Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, each with a clear template of how they want their teams to play, it would be easier to envisage which position he would occupy.

The consensus has held that United need to play 4-3-3 to get the most from Paul Pogba. With Mourinho likely to stick with Matic, one of his trusted 'soldiers', in the holding role, it raises the prospect of Pogba and Fred occupying the two No8 roles slightly ahead of him. Both 'box-to-box' players, there will be those who say the pair are not a complementary partnership.

That may be a little short-sighted, however. Pogba is wasted when tasked with dropping deep to build play and does not particularly excel at it, but Fred does. Pogba possesses more X-factor and the ability to produce something special in the final-third, so they could find a nice balance with Fred linking Matic to Pogba and the other attacking players. Like Dele Alli and Aaron Ramsey who share similar characteristics, Pogba needs a ball-player behind him to let him drift forward into dangerous areas safe in the knowledge that ball will get to him. His spell with Andrea Pirlo at Juventus was a fine example of this dynamic.

If Mourinho wants to get an extra forward in his starting XI and opts for a 4-2-3-1 then, assuming he starts Matic, Fred and Pogba will find themselves competing for one spot. There will be plenty of United fans who would like to see Matic make way in favour of a midfield axis built on dynamism and invention, but they are unlikely to get their wish.

Who will miss out?

Ander Herrera will be regarded as a reliable squad player, ready for action whenever Mourinho wants to man-mark Eden Hazard or pick a player to annoy the opposition. Carrick has retired, while some fans might be relieved to hear that Fellaini is leaning towards rejecting a new contract and leaving on a free. The Belgian had his route-one uses, but the sight of him floundering in central midfield against Sevilla is an indelible image.

Patience might be wearing thin with Pogba, but he is too much of an asset to give up on at this stage. Unless a spectacular proposition presents itself in the market, Pogba will still be a fixture at United next season.

Online Editors

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