By 90Min
September 09, 2019

There's no point sugarcoating it, Fred's performances were underwhelming in his first season at Manchester United, having signed for £52m last summer.

His domestic displays often lacked composure, awareness and were just a little bit awkward. It was a tough first season in the Premier League.

Having seen off competition from rivals Manchester City, United fans were ecstatic about the signing: "Him and Pogba are going to be doing bits this season," "Scientifically proven to be better than Fabinho," and perhaps the best one: "Fred>Liverpool." 

The praises were ringing out for Fred the new Red and he made a strong start to life in Manchester, being nominated for the club's August Player of the Month award. However, the Brazilian and fans had a rude awakening when his performances began to dip and he was left out of the team.

The mood changed.

He was overlooked and left at the bottom of the midfield pecking order, despite his hefty price tag. Some called for United to count their losses and get rid of the 'flop'.

Rumours persisted throughout the summer linking him with a move away. Yet, he's stayed. Following a summer of mainly defensive reinforcement, there is now the chance for the Brazilian to go right ahead and go some way (let's be fair) to repaying the £52m that was forked out for him.

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Of course, he is yet to even feature for the Red Devils this season, with Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Andreas Pereira all seemingly above him in the pecking order. However, the displays have been underwhelming at best since the 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea. And the most common theme? A lack of protection in midfield.  

United dominated the game against Crystal Palace, but left with nothing as the away side scored a late counter. It was a similar scenario against Southampton, with the Red Devils unable to hold onto their 1-0 lead as the midfield was overrun. Paul Pogba simply isn't a defensive midfielder - he doesn't want to worry about the defensive side of the game. 

It would be ludicrous to drop Pogba. Instead, the introduction of a further defensive-minded midfielder would allow the Frenchman to work his glorious magic higher up the pitch. 

And although it may seem ludicrous to think, Fred could just be the man to help solve this issue.

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His performances in the Champions League last season were incomparable to his domestic outings. In Europe, he was sharp, forward-thinking, an engine and a threat - you could almost say he put in the kind of performances that led to United buying him in the first place.

His work defensively was astute, reading the game and nullifying any threat. As other players continued to look uncertain over their positions and roles, he was focused and was tireless. 

And although he may not necessarily be the first name on the team sheet, he deserves to have the chance to replicate these kinds of performances on a more regular basis. 

To some degree, there's no pressure. The 26-year-old's sub-par performances at points have given little reason to be optimistic this season for United fans. Therefore, if he can begin to put in some assured performances, he can make a significant contribution and win back over some of the fans and aid his side in the process.

Of course, he would indeed need to gain faith from manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - who recently insisted that Fred will get the chance to play when the domestic cups and the Europa League campaigns get underway. Prior to this, the manager also confirmed recently that he expects 'big things' from Fred this season - therefore implying that he will indeed be given sufficient time to impress.

The thing is, United aren't exactly in the prime position to be excluding big-money midfield signings, especially considering the lack of depth in that area. It's become abundantly clear that Nemanja Matic is not deemed up to the task to occupy the holding berth, with McTominay claiming the role.

Pogba still has his heart elsewhere, meaning he can down tools as and when he choses despite his undoubted quality. To add to this, an injury to any midfielder would leave United in a vulnerable position with options becoming rather sparse.

One of the more alarming issues last term for United was that, there was constant rotation and there was no settled first XI. However, in the opening games of the new season, it has become clear that Solskjaer knows roughly what his strongest side looks like. This balance and continuity will give players such as Fred the opportunity and platform to go and perform to the best of their ability.

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Having taken his first season to adjust to the robust and fast-paced nature of the Premier League, now represents the perfect opportunity for the Brazilian to lay down a marker and take any opportunities he's given to nail down a place in the team. He has already proven his ability to adapt, having starred in a string of fine performances in the Champions League. Therefore, it is most certainly within the realms of possibility that he will be able to step up this season.

Is he perfect? Undoubtedly not. However, he has a tremendous amount of potential that can be unleashed this season if given the chance to do so. While the club will not have the honour of playing Champions League football, there is a great deal to play for this season with the hierarchy certainly targeting success in the Europa League among other commitments. Therefore, the importance of squad depth cannot be understated.

The glimpses of talent are there for everyone to see, but it's now time for the Brazilian to step up and become the £52m signing that United and Solskjaer need him to be. But, he can only do that if the manager gives him this chance. 

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