Manchester United midfielder Fred has had a decidedly mixed first half of his debut season at Old Trafford following a £50m summer transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk, yet the Brazilian's latest outing against Huddersfield on Boxing Day offers optimism moving forward.
Fred was heavily linked with United prior to joining City, a player Pep Guardiola seemingly thought would strengthen his all conquering squad on the other side of Manchester. Instead, the former Internacional star opted for Old Trafford and set about making himself at home in red.
Partly the result of World Cup involvement affecting the availability and fitness of Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini, Fred was an immediate starter for United under Jose Mourinho when the Premier League season kicked off with a home win over Leicester in early August.
United's newest big name, the only summer signing expected to play a prominent first team role, at least gave a solid account of himself in a favourable setting. Things took a quick nosedive in back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Tottenham, games in which Fred played 90 minutes. As such, he then lost his place and started just three more league games under Mourinho.
Speaking less than two weeks before he was sacked, Mourinho explained why Fred had been out of the team. It was not a slight on the player's ability, more a concern over the way United were struggling defensively and therefore could not gamble on a new player still settling in.
"The day we are stronger defensively, I think the horizons for Fred change completely," were Mourinho's words to the press at that time.
Left out of the United squad completely against Arsenal and Liverpool earlier this month as Mourinho's reign came to a sudden end, Fred appeared for 11 minutes in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's debut as manager in the 5-1 thrashing of Cardiff just before Christmas.
The 25-year-old was subsequently named in the starting lineup against Huddersfield on Boxing Day and appeared to take his chance, staking his claim for a more regular place moving forward.
Points to make at HT:— The Peoples Person (@PeoplesPerson_) December 26, 2018
- Pressing, positioning and passing in final 3rd is MUCH better
- Fred looking very confident, Rashford sharp at No.9 again
- Need to use Dalot as a source of width
- Utd score from a corner (!)
- Still vulnerable at set-pieces
- Should be 2-0 pic.twitter.com/KAVIFY9U0D
The stats, powered by Opta, back that up. Fred was United's second most accurate passer in the game, completing 91.7% of his attempts - only centre-back Phil Jones was more accurate.
It is also worth noting that in his 53 minutes, Fred completed 32 accurate forward half passes. Only Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata (both 34) and Paul Pogba (48) did more, although all three were on the pitch for at least 28 minutes longer. No one had a higher success rate in that than Fred's 94.1%.
In terms of recoveries, Fred (8) was second only to Pogba (10) among the outfield players.
It still wasn't a perfect day for Fred just yet. The reason that he and Diogo Dalot were both brought off so early was because Huddersfield appeared to be building up a head of steam, with Solskjaer opting for more 'guts' in the shape of Ander Herrera and Ashley Young.
"You want some experience and some guts. With Ash and Ander you get players who have been around the block. I thought we struggled when we started the second half so it just settled the whole thing down," the boss told MUTV afterwards.
But concerns over the ability of a player still quite new to English football to withstand pressure are not out of the ordinary. And given that Fred has played relatively little Premier League football during his time in England, Wednesday's display against Huddersfield offered hope that he could yet become a reliable star for a more expansive and generally new look United.