It’s no secret that Manchester United have not had a poor start to the Premier League season, suffering two defeats at home to the likes of Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur. The London clubs played the Red Devils off the park for 90 minutes and were worthy 3-1 and 6-1 winners, respectively. The interesting factors in those game was the system used by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, choosing to go with one sitting midfielder in Scott McTominay or Nemanja Matic. Paul Pogba deployed in a more defensive role in United’s midfield with Bruno Fernandes to operate in the number ten role. Since the introduction of the Brazilian Fred back into the team the energy in the side has gone up and United’s form has changed. The change has been for the better for Manchester United, dropping Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic to the bench and brining in Scott McTominay and Fred back into the starting XI.
There was a severe lack of energy with the 4-1-2-3 system Solskjaer has been using since the beginning of the season with the amount of space in behind Paul Pogba being exploited easily. This was then bringing Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf’s defensive incapability’s onto show. In the example picture below, Fernandes loses the ball and there is no cover behind, and this drags Victor Lindelof out of position allowing Zaha to glide pass into the space and force a good save from David De Gea.
Since the international break, Solskjaer has gone for a change of formation and preferred a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond with Matic or McTominay as the sitter in front of the defence and Fred deployed to the right of the diamond with Paul Pogba or Donny Van de Beek on the left hand-side, the ever present Bruno Fernandes at the tip of the diamond behind the two strikers. The role of Fred has been quiet but effective since his introduction to the team against Newcastle earlier this month.
He is the most tenacious and energetic player in the ranks and adds more than passing and dribbling that conventional midfielder’s do. Fred has played in both of United’s Champions League ties this season, the 2-1 win at the Parc Des Princes against PSG and the 5-0 win at Old Trafford against RB Leipzig. Fred was nominated for Man of the Match in both games and his ball winning capabilities, like Ngolo Kante in Antonio Conte’s system, was so important in stopping the counter attacks for Manchester United. He won’t take the headlines, but he is an important player in this system.
Fred vs RB Leipzig
If we look at Fred’s performance against RB Leipzig in more depth, he had a role to play in four of the five United goals. For the first goal he knocked the ball away from Dani Olmo and this allowed Pogba to find Greenwood for 1-0.
He feeds Bruno Fernandes whose no look pass allows Marcus Rashford to run through and score. 2-0.
He tackles Marcel Sabitzer which puts the ball through for Marcus Rashford to score his second. 3-0.
He feeds Anthony Martial who runs through and is fouled by Marcel Sabitzer for the penalty which Martial dispatches for 4-0.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was full of praise in his post-match for the Brazilian
“I’m sure Fred covered every little single blade of grass on that pitch.
It’s unbelievable how that boy recovers for the next (game) one.”
Fred endured a tough start to his United career and was labelled a flop by many pundits during his first season. Last season he developed and came on leaps and bounds.
Manchester United face Arsenal this Sunday at Old Trafford and will hope their team continues their good form into this one. The Red side of Manchester needs the three points to start catching the leading pack at the top half of the table.