Fred during the Copa America match between Brazil and Venezuela, June 2021.

Fred’s delightful dinked assist for Brazil proved Man Utd misuse him

Let’s face it – Fred doesn’t enjoy the highest standing amongst Manchester United fans. 

The midfielder has had a turbulent time at United since his £53million move from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018, with good displays often being undermined by silly mistakes and runs of poor form.

In his last United match, Fred was unceremoniously bundled off the ball by Demari Gray and had given up jogging back by the time Andros Townsend struck Everton’s equaliser.

Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was once caught laughing at one of his long-range shots.

But maybe Fred’s strengths have been underutilised by United. Having played the majority of his 129 appearances as a defensive midfielder, Fred has become symbolic of the club’s failure to secure a leading player in that position.

Perhaps we’ve got him all wrong though. What if he’s been played out of position this whole time?

Some people will scoff at the mere thought of Fred having a long-term future in United’s midfield. But they haven’t seen the gorgeous assist he produced during Brazil’s 4-1 win over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier.

After receiving the ball around 30 yards from goal, the 28-year-old took a touch and pinged a delightful lofted pass over the entrenched Uruguayan defence into the path of Neymar.

Bringing the ball down the care of a man handling his newborn child, Neymar rounded the goalkeeper before ramming Brazil into an early lead.

Fred’s effectiveness during the match in Manaus wasn’t limited to that assist. He managed to register a 93% passing accuracy, completed 100% of his dribbles, won 62% of his duels and made two crucial interceptions.

Interestingly, Fred lines up for Brazil alongside Liverpool midfielder Fabinho – a more obviously defensive player – which afforded him more freedom to get forward and create.

The insistence on using Fred as a destroyer, rather than a creator, is the factor that looks likely to hold United back. Results have been largely good, but United rarely seem to have control of games and tend to rely on individual brilliance to win matches.

For example, Fred was paired with Paul Pogba against Wolves in August and floundered as the home side dominated proceedings only to somehow lose 1-0.

Both Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic perform the holding role more effectively than the Brazil international.

So maybe it’s time for Fred to be let off the leash and start redefining himself as a midfielder with a lot more to offer.

By Michael Lee

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