Brazil is the one nation on earth that conjures up more images synonymous with The Beautiful Game than any other. The South American country – five time champions of the world – has a poor domestic league but are considered masters of our game with the samba swagger, swashbuckling style and penchant for the spectacular.
The legendary names – to Ronaldo (the other one), Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Garrincha and arguably the greatest of them all, Pele, roll off the tongue and need no introduction. Manchester United, however, have not been so fortunate.
Six Samba boys have donned the Red of United – Kleberson, Anderson, Rodrigo Possebon and the flamboyant if feckless pair of twins Messrs Rafael and Fabio Da Silva. All of them came with hefty price tags and even loftier expectations. None exactly set the world alight and all came and went having hardly covered themselves in glory. That brings us neatly to Fred – who joined that quintet and turned out to be José Mourinho’s final summer signing when he joined from Shakhtar for a fee of £52 million, as reported by the Daily Mail, and a reputation as one of the best midfield maestros on the continent.
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When you’re Brazilian, big things are expected and there will be pressure perhaps not afforded so heavily to your contemporaries. When you’re Brazilian and happen to play for the mighty Reds, all that increases ten fold. Make no mistake about it, Fred has been underwhelming at Old Trafford so far.
He’s made only eleven starts and has completed a full 90 minutes only twice, failing to nail down a regular place in the team under the man who signed him. One goal – albeit a very good one against Wolves – is all he has shown so far. Mourinho may be gone, but the player’s fortunes have not improved. Interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not seem all that convinced, either, amid concerns about his fitness.
In this social media dominated era, Twitter can be always be relied upon to judge a player, more often than not when things are going awry. The Twitterati fuelled critics were certainly out in force for United’s newest recruit after another disappointing hour against the fodder of Championship Reading in Saturday’s FA Cup tie.
FA Cup fourth round details here.
— Ganesh Shankar (@kskganesh) January 5, 2019
— IfNotNowThenWhen (@SimplyMoney1) January 5, 2019
If I had a Dollar each time #Fred lose possession, i would be billionaire by now!!! Seriously!! How can he play in a legendary club like @manutd with no seriousness!! Damn kid! It was so frustrating to see him being 'too easy' most of the time… #manutd #mufc #FAcup #MUNREA
— Okundaye Daniel (@DanielOkundaye) January 6, 2019
But there were others who felt that Fred simply needs the most precious commodity of all..
— Ben (@Ben91Young) January 5, 2019
Think this criticism of Fred is a bit over the top. Played two games in the last ten weeks. He’s gonna be miles off the pace. Plus yesterday he played in a team with 9 changes. Give him a bit more time before the execution. #MUFC #FRED
— Jack sharkey (@sharkey689908) January 6, 2019
Football fans have short memories and even less patience. They are often judge, jury and executioner. Let’s not forget that Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra – who went on to become two United greats of the Premier-League era – looked anything but the totemic talents they would become during a chastening first season in England.
A young and unsuspecting David de Gea had his flaws brutally exposed in his debut campaign between the posts – leaving most of us wondering what on earth we had done in signing him. He’s not turned out to be too bad has he?
Fernandinho is now widely regarded as the best exponent of his craft you can find, but he experienced similar struggles in his first season at City to those of Liverpool’s Fabinho, who has failed to live up to the reputation he so impressively carved up at AS Monaco.
In my view, new signings – especially new additions who don’t know the league or its surroundings – need up to a season before we can pass judgement and clubs can fully capitalise on the fruits of their labour.
The Premier League is a cruel mistress, and its pace, intensity and physicality can often be alien for players like Fred and Fabinho who are used to a slower, more technical and less energy-sapping style. Mourinho signed a lot of duds during his United tenure, but it would be unwise to write Fred off just yet. Remember that Pep Guardiola wanted him across the city so there must be a more than capable player there. It seems that Fred has become another victim of modern football, a world where some expect everything yesterday.