Fred has emerged as one of Manchester United’s best and most consistent players throughout the 2019/20 season. Many fans believed he would not be good enough for the Premier League at the end of last season. Now the Brazilian has proven his worth and is one of the first names on the team sheet for the Reds. His tenacity in the midfield has proved vital for United, especially in the bigger games – where the side has flourished throughout the 2019/20 season, beating Manchester City home and away for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign as one of their successes.
The majority of supporters last year couldn’t have imagined the strides Fred has taken throughout his second season at Old Trafford. This tactical analysis scout report will be looking into the unique style that the Brazilian plays and the skill set that has made him a success for United in the 2019/20 season.
The 27-year-old began his youth career at Atlético Mineiro, being there from 2003 until 2009. His professional career began at Brazilian club Internacional in 2012. Fred would then go on to join Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, where he would win the Ukrainian Premier League three times during his tenure there. His performances in the Champions League throughout the 2017/18 season attracted many top teams like Manchester United and Manchester City. He made his move to Manchester in 2018, and he decided for red over blue.
Throughout the 2019/19 season, Fred would only start 13 Premier League games and was disappointing for the majority of those. It was not until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to manage the side where we saw improvement in Fred. As Solskjaer would bring in tactics which would suit Fred’s style. His highlight game being against PSG in the Champions League where United made one of their most famous European comebacks. This season the midfielder has started the last 22 Premier League games showing his new importance to the side.
Fred’s ball hassling
The midfielder is known for his elite ball hassling. His quick acceleration and tenacity make him efficient at halting the progression of the ball for the opposition. Throughout the 2019/20 campaign, Fred has made an average of 5.7 interceptions and 8.94 recoveries per 90 minutes. Impressively, 41.3% of his recoveries were made in the opposition half.
Shown above, Fred’s heatmap from the current season. We can see that the midfielder is heavily active everywhere in the middle of the pitch.
Fred often makes important interceptions, yet throughout the season he has improved in his actions after he gets the ball from the opposition.
Here we see Phil Foden in a dangerous space inside the United box and he is about to receive the pass to shoot but Fred makes an important interception and then also has the composure to find Daniel James between two City players.
His constant pressure on opponents encourages them to pass backwards and not progress the ball. This has been one of his main assets this year as an elite ‘ball hassler’. Although this side of the game is one that doesn’t get appreciated much, it is a great asset to Fred.
Above, İlkay Gündoğan had pulled into space between James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka so that City could bypass United’s passive press. Gündoğan is forced to play backwards though, due to Fred’s aggressive press. The play ends in Ederson playing a difficult long pass forward which ends in United possession.
Progressor Of The Ball
This season, Fred has been Manchester United’s primary progressor of the ball. He starts deeper looking for passes between the lines, or carries the ball and passes to the forwards.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder averages 1.08 progressive runs per 90 minutes. He also plays an average of 10.62 passes into the final third per 90, with 80.7% of those being accurate. This is impressive due to the difficulty of passes he sometimes plays into the final third. This is a strong aspect of the Brazilians game, and it has been a positive for United as they’ve lacked progressive players in the side.
Fred will look to bypass the opposition midfield with a firm pass into the forward’s feet. Above, he picked the ball up deep and played a midfield splitting pass to Anthony Martial’s (highlighted) feet. This takes the 5 Newcastle players in front of Fred out of the game.
In this scenario, Fred has the ball in an advanced area. Odion Ighalo makes a run towards Fred and is the easy option to pass to. However, this run creates space in behind for Juan Mata to run into from the right but the execution of the pass needs to be perfect. Fred chooses to play the reverse pass to Mata and it is weighted to perfection for Mata to control and finish past the goalkeeper. A great assist from the Brazilian.
Fred’s ability to drive with the ball has improved. Above he vacates his position as Bruno Fernandes drops deeper to pick the ball up. Fred enters a dangerous position between the lines of the opposition midfield and defence. His first touch with his right foot opens his body up and allows him to drive at the defence. He then shows composure to play a pass to Luke Shaw. Fred then moves into another good position on the left to receive the pass back and does well to create space and look for a smart cutback to Greenwood in the box but Everton’s Mason Holgate intercepts it well. The play ends in a good shot from Nemanja Matic which hits the crossbar. Fred’s driving with the ball was vital in this attack.
Relationship with Bruno Fernandes
Fred has had a solid season, yet since Bruno Fernandes joined the Reds in January he has looked even stronger in the middle with the Portuguese in front of him.
The two midfielders have linked up well since Fernandes has joined. In the Premier League Fred has found 9 passes on average per 90 to Fernandes. While the new signing has passed to Fred an average of 8.6 times per 90. The pair always are looking for each other.
The Portuguese man has taken the attacking responsibility of the midfield, which allows Fred to focus on the strengths in his game. Fernandes averages 1.9 shot assists and 2.28 dribbles per 90 in the Premier League.
In this image, Bruno Fernandes is already on the half-turn as he expects Fred to play the pass in front of him. This is exactly what happens and Fernandes then finds James and the Welshman gets a shot off on goal. This shows the trust and understanding already installed between the pair, knowing each other’s actions.
Fred’s shooting has not been great since he’s joined Manchester United, shown from his average of 1.57 shots per game and only 23.3% of them being on target. He does, however, get in good positions for a shot with delayed runs to the edge of the box. Improved shooting accuracy and Fred’s goal tally would increase.
Fred is often positioned outside of the box looking for a cut-back. He makes a late run so that it is unlikely the opposition will be looking to mark him.
In the image above, Fred has made his delayed run to the edge of the box, while the Watford players have congested around the ball. Fred is in tons of space and receives the ball. Although he misses the target, the awareness and movement of the Brazilian are impressive.
The Brazilian has been one of Manchester United’s strongest performers this season. This analysis shows that the elite ball hassling midfielder is a great asset to the Red Devils and has proven himself as one of the strongest midfielders in the Premier League throughout the 2019/20 campaign with his unique style of play.