Fred would be a popular choice in a player of the year poll among Man United fans and has started to look worth the £52million they paid for him.
Fred is becoming as good a talker as he is a player. Portions of his candid comments about the ‘vanity’ at Manchester United and the squad’s ‘problems’ in early February could have been mistaken for a Roy Keane diatribe.
Keane took a dim view of Mark Bosnich arriving late for his first day of training at The Cliff (“Your first f—— day at Manchester United and you turn up an hour late for f—— training”), and you can imagine how he would have reacted to Fred requesting a fortnight off in pre-season to get married. Andy Cole missed the birth of his son to maintain United’s title challenge in 1995.
Fred appeared – judging by his and his wife’s Instagram – to have had his nuptials the previous summer. The former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva – Fred’s mentor – was thrown when Fred breezily suggested he would receive permission from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Fred presumed he would have the time off having participated in the Copa America, only the Brazil coach Tite has not called him up to the squad since September 2018.
Whether playing catch-up or urging teammates to wake up, Fred has responded resoundingly and would run Marcus Rashford close in a United player of the year poll. Digging out his teammates has done little or no harm, too – United have won six and drawn three since Fred held court at the breakfast bar of his kitchen.
“No country can apply the rich mix of ingredients you gain from a top Brazilian player,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. Ferguson was a stickler for the bubbly personality of Brazilians and in his 2013 book wrote effusively about the gluttonous Anderson, described as a ‘lovely boy’. The boy Fred is back in Brazil with his wife, Monique, and son, Benjamin, and held court with the Trivela website for an insightful interview.
“There is always that adaptation process, right?” Fred said. “Last season was very difficult. It changed a lot not only in my career, but also in my personal life. My wife was pregnant when I arrived in England; we were in a different condition.
“I arrived at a club of a gigantic dimension, a championship that is the most disputed, the best in the world. So it ends up being difficult to adapt.”
“Adapt or die,” Billy Beane tells the Oakland A’s scout in Moneyball. Fred has adapted so impressively punters have understood why Pep Guardiola considered signing him before eventually settling on Rodri, nutmegged by Fred in the December derby.
Fred and his physicians were phlegmatic about a forgettable first season at United and viewed it as one of ‘adaptation’. Much of his fitness focus in the summer – and now in the lockdown – was intensity-based, since he was taken aback by the demands of English football after five years with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine.
Fred originally found the day-to-day routine at United much harder than he experienced in Eastern Europe or South America, and those who work with the Brazil international described the differences between Ukrainian and English football as ‘notorious’.
“In the Premier League it is difficult; the midfield is very congested,” Fred explained. “There is a lot of pressure and the game is very fast. So it’s hard for you to spend a lot of time with the ball; you have to be very fast, you have to think long before the ball reaches you.”
After his omission from all four matchday squads in August, Fred emerged in the second-half of the narrow defeat of Leicester City and United became more proactive in what was his first competitive appearance in 143 days.
Fred completed all nine of his attempted passes and a third were forward against the top four upstarts who were unbeaten and had schooled Chelsea in their draw at Stamford Bridge. Fred had to wait three more weeks to start in the Premier League and he has lined up in every league fixture since. He is (or was) on course to start double the amount of matches than in his first season with United.
“This season I already managed to put my football into practice,” he added. “I had a good sequence of games, which I didn’t have last season, and I am very happy to be playing well, to be doing a great championship and I hope that when I return I can improve more and more.”
Fred began the campaign as fifth-choice midfielder (Andreas Pereira started against Chelsea and Southampton in August) and transformed into an asset some of United’s rivals might be glancing enviously at. He was unfortunate to be cut from Tite’s squad for the cancelled March internationals, but the Brazil coaching staff have watched Fred in person this season. He has backed up the talking.