Scouting Report: Why Fred Can Be a Difference Maker for Manchester United8 min read
With Michael Carrick joining José Mourinho’s backroom staff and Marouane Fellaini potentially leaving the club, it is little surprise to see Manchester United attempt to recruit a new central midfielder.
Fred, who was on the verge of joining Manchester City in the January transfer window, now looks to be the Red Devils’s number one candidate leading into the summer. The midfielder has been plying his trade with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine for the past five years and has been selected, off the back of some stellar performances, in Brazil’s 23-man squad heading to Russia for this year’s World Cup.
It is always difficult to recruit players when the World Cup is taking place, given they have other priorities to think about, but a deal looks set in place to go through before the competition starts.
For a player, the perfect scenario is to get the anticipation of his next club out of the way before the serious football takes place. For a club, it is the golden ticket, given his valuation could multiply at an unforgiving rate if he is to steal the show during the tournament.
Fred, 25, is in the prime years of his playing career and caught the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs last season. The Brazilian combines his artistry and ruthlessness in a two-man midfield pivot, breaking up play when he needed to but also launching attacks from within his own half and getting his team on the front foot.
In a similar style to Carrick, Fred brings the ball out from the back and always looks for the pass to set his team up for the counter attack. His sharpness in spotting the runs ahead of him is why the Red Devils have expressed such an interest as they are losing a player of their own to have such an effect on the game.
Nemanja Matić was only signed last year by United from Chelsea for £40 million, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old will not have too many seasons left where he can make 49 appearances throughout the campaign. At times, the Serbian looked ragged and was being exposed by the opposition’s sheer speed in-behind.
That is where Fred comes into play: the Brazilian can ease the workload off Matić’s shoulders by filling in at the base of United’s midfield. While he is a central midfielder by trait, he has been known to do an impeccable job defensively and can sit in front of the back four dictating play. Given Fred is one of the most hard-working players in Shakhtar’s team, it is no surprise that United envisage the Brazilian playing in both an attacking and defensive manner.
That is not to say the Serbia international will be sidelined for the season – not by any stretch of the imagination – but it does allow him breathing time as Fred can fill in when needed to.
Another string to Fred’s bow is that he is a free-kick specialist – something that Mourinho’s men lack within their ranks. While Alexis Sánchez and Marcus Rashford have been known for taking set-pieces, they have been disappointing in front of goal and do not pose a great threat. The Brazilian has been known to score from areas just outside the box and did so in emphatic fashion against AS Roma in the last 16 of the Champions League last term.
Originating from Brazil, Fred possesses the technical skill that makes players from that country such a joy to watch: his intricate passing is completed at such speed, bringing others into play, that you can find yourself losing track of the ball with it constantly being moved on and put into space in advantageous areas.
While Fred is an old school midfielder and gets his hands dirty, the Brazil international also occupies the area just outside the box when his team are attacking – acting as a nucleus for the attacking play in a central role.
Four goals and seven assists this season suggests that Fred does add a valuable contribution to his team’s attack, just like Carrick used to do throughout his prime years with the Red Devils.
Unlike other Shakhtar players, Fred still has a contract to run until 2023, which means the Ukrainian club are in a very strong position when it comes to negotiation his transfer fee.
The Ukrainian team’s president said earlier this month: “This will be a market price, the fair price, and it will be beneficial both for the club inviting Fred and for us. That is, I can somewhat feel that Fred will be more expensive than Fernandinho and Teixeira.”
Given Teixeira cost around £45 million, Shakhtar will be looking for a figure around the £50 million mark. For United, it is a reasonable rate given he is in the prime of his career and will be a valuable asset for years to come. Provided the decision makers are fully convinced of the player, they will have no problem acquiring him.
With Carrick moving behind the scenes and it becoming likelier by the day that Fellaini looks set to leave on a free transfer – the Belgian is to join ‘Any Italian Club’ this summer, amid strong interest from AC Milan – Manchester United need midfielders this summer. It is a priority of theirs in this window.
One of the biggest mistakes Sir Alex Ferguson made was failing to replace Roy Keane in the heart of his team, and Mourinho will not want to follow in those footsteps. Fred will be attracted by the Premier League and the increase to his wages, but also the ability to be part of the spine at one of the world’s biggest teams.
The Brazilian is a luxurious player but also has the ability to pose a combative presence in midfield, which is what United need more of. Mourinho likes that side to a player and so this transfer looks set to take place. For the club’s sake, they will want everything signed off before he heads off to Russia.