Former Manchester United anchor Owen Hargreaves has said Red Devils incumbent Fred can become “the perfect midfield player” if he can add more of an attacking edge to his game at Old Trafford.
United beat rivals Manchester City to sign Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer of 2018, but he’s largely struggled to justify his £52 million price tag after almost two years at the club.
Hargreaves, 39, told Premier League Productions (h/t Goal’s Chris Burton) the January acquisition of Bruno Fernandes has given United the offensive outlet Fred was being forced to fill:
“He’s a complete midfield player but if he can add goals to his game then he’ll be the perfect midfield player. In possession he’s very good, out of possession he’s really aggressive and now the players around him are functioning which is a really good sign. “I think because they paid £50 million for Fred and he’s Brazilian that people thought he was a No.10 but he isn’t. “He’s not a goalscorer and he’s not really creative but what he is a really good midfield player. He’s two-footed and now we’re seeing the player that was at Shakhtar, where in the Champions League he put in some brilliant performances against the best teams.”
Fernandes’ output of three goals and four assists in eight starts for United tells of the effect he’s had in transforming their attack, allowing Fred more freedom in his roaming role.
Hargreaves-who made 39 appearances for United between 2007 and 2011-added: “He’s energetic without the ball and now with [Nemanja] Matic as a sitter Fred can be box-to-box, before he was too high and sometimes too deep but now this is a midfield three [Matic, Fred, Fernandes] it’s balanced, everyone feels comfortable.”
The Athletic reported in October 2019 that former United manager Jose Mourinho only agreed to sign Fred because there were no better alternatives available at the time of his arrival.
TalkSport’s Andy Goldstein suggested Fred, Fernandes and Paul Pogba-who has been out injured since Boxing Day-could make up the best midfield three in the Premier League:
United beat rivals Manchester City 2-0 at Old Trafford in early March when Fernandes assisted Anthony Martial for the opener to extend his prolific start since arriving from Sporting CP.
Fred also continued his streak of improving form at home to the Citizens, showing a balanced passing range in attack and defence, per Statman Dave:
The Brazil international assisted Juan Mata for United’s third goal during Thursday’s 5-0 hammering of LASK Linz in the UEFA Europa League last 16 (U.S. viewers only):
Scott McTominay is another force among Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ranks likely to feature prominently in the midfield plans, leaving some question as to where Pogba fits in when he returns to fitness.
The Red Devils are unbeaten in 11 games and have shown more promise in almost every area of late-they’ve scored 29 and conceded just two goals during that almost pristine run.
Solskjaer is fortunate to have more options available thanks to the effect Fernandes has had on the squad, with Fred one of several players to benefit directly as a result.