Fred’s beautiful chaos is the perfect ingredient for Rangnick’s Man Utd

Manchester United midfielder Fred during the game with Tottenham. Old Trafford, October 2021.

It’s been a galling almost-decade for Manchester United fans. 

Not only have they slipped from their perch since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but they’ve been overtaken by arch-rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.

As Gary Neville once said: “It’s been like having a choice of two blokes to nick your wife”.

While the country’s elite reign supreme by controlling matches, either via the boa-constrictor method of Pep Guardiola or being bludgeoned to death by Jurgen Klopp, United have embraced chaos. They’ve embraced unpredictability.

And here, entering from stage left, comes Fred.

In truth, it’s a stretch to say United fans have embraced Fred. His continued presence in midfield since 2018 has often been used as Exhibit A in documenting the club’s decline and, well, he’s not exactly Kevin de Bruyne.

But there remains something earnest about Fred’s performances that, in a more successful era, would have endeared him to the Old Trafford faithful.

Look at his contribution against Arsenal. Yes, Fred did turn provider for Emile Smith-Rowe’s opener with an ill-timed rake down the ankle of David de Gea. Some in the Stretford End would have ironically noted it was one of his best tackles of the season.

But the 28-year-old belied his reputation by using possession progressively, stealing the ball with the dexterity of a Victorian pickpocket and masterfully exploiting the gaps left by the opposition.

Even so, Fred remains the chaotic heart of the modern Manchester United – even on his good days.

He played an invaluable role in teeing up United’s equaliser, linking well with Jadon Sancho and sweeping a reverse pass into the path of Bruno Fernandes.

It was a moment that summed up Fred; his touch upon receiving Sancho’s pass and the vision to set up Fernandes were exquisite while simultaneously bringing to mind a giraffe skating across an ice rink.

And it was Fred that won the decisive penalty in the second half, bursting into the penalty area only to be felled by a clumsy tackle from Martin Odegaard.

That’s not to say Fred is a bad footballer but he’s certainly an unconventional one. It’s easy to see why his talents are underappreciated by many observers, but perhaps the sharp mind of Ralf Rangnick can bring out Fred’s calmer side.

For those scoffing at the thought of the Brazil international thriving in a successful United side, it’s worth remembering that the likes of Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho were written off at Chelsea before Thomas Tuchel whipped them into shape.

If nothing else, Fred provides the energy that’s needed in any side that intends to press with any sort of intensity.

The appointment of Rangnick has increased optimism at Old Trafford and, if he can harness Fred’s best qualities while minimising the chaos that accompanies them, United may have a very fine central midfielder on their hands.

By Michael Lee

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