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Fred

Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United, £52m

Profile
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 here that the then 19-year-old made his first-team breakthrough, during the 2012 domestic Brazilian campaign. During his first season in senior football, Fred 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 the likes of now Juventus winger Douglas Costa and current Shakhtar captain Taison already at the club, Fred’s transition was no doubt made significantly easier. He still impressed in his first season, however, scoring twice in 23 appearances as Shakhtar won the Ukrainian Premier League – the first of three domestic titles, to go with three Ukrainian cups, Fred won in his five seasons at the club.

In June 2018, Shakhtar agreed a reported fee of around £52m to sell the now 25-year-old to English giants Manchester United. Fred was at the time away with Brazil’s World Cup squad, but received special permission to leave the camp in order to complete his move – and subsequently played no part in any of Brazil’s games in Russia anyway. He has won only eights caps in an international career spanning four years, but will hope the increased profile he should enjoy at Old Trafford will help him force his way into Brazil’s future plans.

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, however, he will make up for when progressing the ball into the final third. He always wants to move the ball forwards, even when it is not obvious to do so, while his tricky turns and ability to dribble through crowds help him away from pressure and into empty midfield spaces. The 25-year-old can also be a threat from central free-kicks, despite not being a primary taker in recent years.

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-piece chances for his team. These fouls can also help relieve pressure, should his team be facing intense attacking spells from opponents.

Role at new club
It is expected that Fred will play as part of a double pivot system at United. Jose Mourinho’s first choice Nemanja Matic is likely to be deployed alongside him, with Fred 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 his rumoured move to Barcelona fail to materialise.

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 Mourinho picks, Fred will face regular competition for a starting place. Matic and Ander Herrera are both alternative candidates in defensive midfield, with the emerging young talent Scott McTominay another one in the mix.

The major issue with having Fred as a lone central 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 a Matic or Herrera alongside him, Fred is likely to get overrun as a single pivot. Should he be a regular starter for Mourinho, the manager will have to sacrifice a more obvious attacking midfielder in order to squeeze him in.

Fred