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Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United, £52m

Fred – full name Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos – represented various youth clubs in his native Brazil before eventually progressing through the ranks of Internacional in Porto Alegre. It was there that the then 19-year-old made his first-team breakthrough, during the 2012 Brazilian domestic campaign. Throughout his first season in senior football he made more than 30 appearances.

In the opening months of the 2013 Série A season, the young Brazilian agreed a €15m move to Ukraine, specifically to join a Shakhtar Donetsk squad featuring a number of his countrymen. With now Juventus winger Douglas Costa and Shakhtar captain Taison already present, Fred’s transition was made significantly easier. He impressed in his first season, scoring twice in 23 appearances as they won the Ukrainian Premier League, the first of three domestic titles to go with the three Ukrainian cups Fred won in his five seasons there.

In June 2018, Shakhtar agreed a reported fee of around £52m to sell him to English giants Manchester United. Fred, 26, was then away with Brazil’s World Cup squad, but he received special permission to leave in order to complete his move. He has won 11 caps in his international career, but will hope the increased profile he should enjoy at Old Trafford will help him force his way into Brazil’s future plans, if after an inconsistent first season in Manchester he can become crucial to their new-look midfield.

Tactical analysis
Fred is different to many traditional defensive midfielders, in that he is excellent in attacking possession. His quality on the ball is shown from his incisive through balls and ability to drive forward in open play or during transitional moments. The higher up the pitch he roams, the more effective his forward passes become, often slicing open opposing defences with ease (above). His box-to-box style is perhaps better suited to playing alongside a second deep-lying midfielder whose primary role is to protect the defensive unit.

Perhaps surprisingly, his skills in possession are more limited when building out from the goalkeeper. He is not one to drop in between splitting central defenders, should his team look to restart with short passes from the goalkeeper. He can be caught in possession, particularly when pressed from behind (below), if taking too long to decide which pass to play when in deeper areas. He also lacks the movement to receive with his body ‘open’ in order to progress the ball from deep.

What Fred lacks in the build-up phase he will regardless make up for when progressing the ball into the final third. He always wants to move possession forwards, even when it is not obvious to do so, and his tricky turns and ability to dribble through crowds help him away from pressure and into empty midfield spaces, where he is also capable of switching play (above). Fred can also be a threat from central free-kicks.

Despite his smaller stature for traditional deeper midfielders – he stands 5ft 7ins – he protects the ball well, often intelligently drawing fouls that can create additional set-pieces. These fouls can also help relieve pressure should his team face intense attacking spells.

Role this season
Ander Herrera’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain means that Nemanja Matic remains likeliest to be deployed alongside Fred, in a double pivot, with the Brazilian supporting but given more of a licence to roam forward, particularly during attacking transitions. This could also enable Paul Pogba to play in a more advanced role, should United resist his desire to leave.

If Fred is used as a lone pivot, then United will set up with more advanced central midfielders, in which case Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata are the likely candidates. Regardless of which central midfield combination is selected, Fred will face regular competition for a starting place. Matic and Scott McTominay are both alternative candidates in defensive midfield.

The major issue with having Fred as the lone defensive midfielder is that he lacks the ability to defensively control the space in front of the back line. Without the experience and defensive nous of Matic or Herrera alongside him, as the single pivot Fred is likely to get overrun. Should he become a regular starter, a more traditional attacking midfielder may have to be sacrificed to fit him in.