At 25 years old, the Brazilian was supposed to be a ready-made solution to the club’s midfield problems, but in the early months he only served to make things worse. With the side struggling under Jose Mourinho, when Betenemy.com odds rarely favoured United, Fred was soon a casualty and while injuries saw him reintegrated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer later on in the season, he ended the campaign with just 13 Premier League starts to his name.
This season has been an entirely different story though and Fred may in fact be an outside bet for United’s player of the season. So far, he has made 39 appearances in all competitions and alongside Nemanja Matic, he has formed an increasingly solid, if not creative midfield partnership. His ability to get around the pitch has been of particular value, while he has become one of Solskjaer’s most accurate and consistent passers.
With 1335 completed passes in the Premier League so far this term, only Harry Maguire has managed more, while at 84.8% accuracy, he has found his target more regularly than Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Andreas Pereira. However, his impact has not just been deep in the midfield, with Fred also providing a surprising amount of ball progression.
From his 22 starts, he has completed 140 passes into the final third, which is better than any of his teammates. With 2.8 xA so far this season, only Daniel James and Andreas Pereira have created more, while he also leads the side with 36 key passes.
The addition of Fernandes has certainly added more creativity and this should ease the burden on Fred, but the 27-year-old has certainly done enough to earn the trust of his manager and the fans. With Manchester United likely to go into the transfer window this summer, finding a player that can complement Fred and Fernandes should be the priority. If Pogba is to depart, there should be money to spend and replacing Matic with a younger and more mobile defensive shield could prove invaluable.
Of course, there remain concerns in many quarters about the efficiency of United’ transfer policy, but almost 18 months on, the money spent on Fred is beginning to look worthwhile. Whether they can repeat the job this summer though, remains to be seen.