Eric Ten Hag cannot forget the unsung hero of Manchester United in his starting line-up – Samuel Lockhurst

The first and only time Fred started at Manchester United’s midfield base, he mishandled a pass from David de Gea, was sent off and Diogo Jota equalized with Wolverhampton.

It took two and a half years, changing manager at United to realize that Fred is more important in the future. Under Ralf Rangnick, he scored key goals to earn seven Premier League points and his scoring passes against Aston Villa and Brentford.

Michael Carrick, the perfect observer, adjusted Fred’s position in his first match on a temporary assignment, and Fred’s pressure enabled Cristiano Ronaldo to score the winning goal against Villarreal. Just over a week later, Fred sent Bruno Fernandes and won the decisive penalty to defeat Arsenal on the final night of Carrick’s 15-and-a-half year career with United.

Read also: United ready to sell five defenders as part of overhaul

Fred was one of a handful of United players who emerged from the wreckage last season unscathed. It wasn’t his best season but it was the most advanced, breaking free from the shackles of Solskjaer’s risk-averse style and scoring as many goals as he had in the previous three seasons. Fred remains a key player for Brazil after a productive Copa America, despite the final performance against Argentina.

The 29-year-old doesn’t shrink the violet, though he’s not the bouncer who cares about the entrance. Liverpool Fabinho, Manchester City Rodri, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic have a fortress for Chelsea, and Antonio Conte has fleshed out the backbone of Spurs with Yves Bisuma and Thomas Partey of Arsenal core to build a reliable squad around him.

‘Fre-Fre’ is not as attractive as ‘McFred’ but Frenkie de Jong and Fred have potential in the same midfield as United. De Jong is a game control expert for continuous spells and, as Fred said, “I bring the piano for the artists to play.” After a difficult first year, United dropped Fred.

Like Bruno Fernandes, Fred can make something out of nothing but is wiser on the ball and more disciplined and effective when pressing.

The best team in Ajax led by Erik Ten Hag was devoid of a strong defensive midfielder, supporting veteran Lacy Schoen de Jong. It would not be a good idea to repeat a squad that succeeded in the Premier League in the Premier League dumping grounds and United would still fall short even if de Jong replace Catalonia with Castlefield.

Pep Guardiola has had to adapt after a first teaching season in the Premier League and United cannot let the window close without a defensive midfielder passing. If Ten Hag insists on the dominant duo of De Jong and Fred United he will be walking a tightrope without a safety net.

Fred emerged from the wreckage of the United season unscathed
Fred emerged from the wreckage of the United season unscathed

United are not oblivious to the need for a defensive-minded option. They worked on a deal for Calvin Phillips before Leeds United stayed and Manchester City’s interest surfaced. Phillips replaced the departure of Fernandinho in Guardiola’s streamlined squad.

Jose Mourinho faced a similar dilemma four years ago when Carrick retired. Nemanja Matic was one season into his career with United and Ander Herrera was reprogrammed, so they targeted a deep, full-fledged creator after thinking about Jorginho. Matic’s departure a year earlier than expected makes defensive-minded recruitment a must.

Renaming United with De Jong, Fred and Christian Eriksen would be an extreme but mirror Tin Hag’s Ajax side which was Lucas Moura’s shot away from the Champions League final in 2019. He feels nostalgic.

Last season, Edson Alvarez sat out while Ryan Gravenburch and Stephen Pergues ventured forward in Ajax 4-3-3. United’s best stints were under the last three permanent managers in the same squad, but Tin Hag had to settle with a 4-2-3-1 score if he got De Jong and United failed to supplement him with a solid.

Fernandez, the Portuguese speaker, Fred’s teammate, got a new contract less than three months ago, but his style is out of date with Eriksen, de Jong and Fred, if they all become teammates over the next 10 weeks.

The video of Fred’s unveiling began with his namesake howl as he plays the piano. Unlike Alexis Sanchez, he prefers to carry her.

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