It’s safe to say the Fred signing has not gone very well for Manchester United this year. The £52 million signing has made just 11 starts for United this season, nine of which came under Jose Mourinho. He hasn’t appeared for United since their 3rd round FA Cup tie against Reading back on January 5th, 51 days ago.
Despite all that, I’m still firmly in the camp that it’s too soon to label him a bust. Coming from the Ukraine it was always going to take him time to settle in. He’s dealt with two managers with very conflicting styles, and frankly neither one of them has found a position for him. He was signed as aa replacement for Michael Carrick, but he’s not the same kind of midfielder. He’s been used in the Ander Herrera role, but hasn’t fully settled in there. I still think he’ll come good, but he definitely needs time.
Fred has only made two appearances under Ole Solskjaer, and has been omitted from the matchday squad three times, but Sunday’s match against Liverpool was still very telling as to where the Brazilian stands on the Norwegian’s depth chart.
With Nemanja Matic injured in training on Saturday, Solskjaer called on Scott Mctominay to start in his place. When Ander Herrera limped off in the first half, it was Andreas Perreira, who has had plenty of chances to show us he’s actually bad, who came on. Fred stayed on the bench the entire match, never even being told to warm up.
United have suddenly find themselves in the midst of a major injury crisis. First choice players Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, and Ander Herrera, five of the first choice front six, are all unavailable. United’s only fit first team midfielders are Paul Pogba, McTominay, Perreira, and Fred.
Solskjaer now has a dilemma on his hands. There’s a good chance Solskjaer will need to call upon Fred in the near future. Solskjaer giving Fred what has essentially been an honorary place on United’s bench for the past two months may have been man management to keep his confidence up, but like I said before, he hasn’t played a minute in 51 days! To throw him out there now would be incredible careless.
This week presents itself with a situation to try and help that situation but it’s far from perfect. United’s U23 team square off against Reading Monday night. Fred could take part in that game just to regain some of his match fitness, but with United set to travel to Crystal Palace on Wednesday that would essentially make him unavailable for that match. That would leave United with just three healthy midfielders.
Solskjaer now has a choice to make. Take Fred with him down to South London, where he’s essentially useless, or play him on Monday and really rule him out.
If it were up to me, I’d go with option B. He needs the minutes and until he gets them, the unknown James Garner is probably a better option anyway. But I’m not Ole Solskjaer and I don’t have to deal with the human side of the players.
So far Solskjaer’s man management has proven to be top notch. This week could be his biggest test yet.