How Fred produced one of his best Man Utd games – and the role he now has to play
Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational hat-trick grabbed the headlines in Manchester United’s crucial win over Tottenham Hotspur, but another Red also put in an outstanding performance.
After Manchester United returned to the top four with their 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur, Cristiano Ronaldo was the talk of the town.
The Portuguese ace was back to his imperious best, smashing a sensational hat-trick as Antonio Conte’s helpless side watched horrified.
But in and among an electric Old Trafford atmosphere fueled by the deafening ‘Siuuu’ chants that greet every Ronaldo goal, an oft-maligned Red Devil was cooking up a storm of its own.
Fred, the engine of the Brazilian midfielder often reduced to the role of scapegoat, had one of his best performances in a United jersey.
Football Mirror consider everything Fred did so brilliantly against Spurs.
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With Scott McTominay ruled out of the contest due to a positive coronavirus test, Fred was deployed alongside experienced, but significantly less mobile, Nemanja Matic.
The Serbian midfielder’s passing range and vision were balanced by Fred’s predatory pressure instincts and ability to find small pockets of space between Tottenham’s midfield and defence.
Matic has started just ten Premier League games all season, while Fred, so often in the crosshairs of Roy Keane’s scathing criticism at United, is hardly an Old Trafford favourite.
However, the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder was nothing short of brilliant for the Reds against Spurs.
He used the ball well, he regularly broke Tottenham’s halfway lines and he fought for every loose ball and tackle.
“He’s probably, along with Scott McTominay, one of the best winners on the ball if the other team is in possession,” Rangnick said of Fred after the game.
“He also showed today in quite a few counter-attacks and moments of transition that he can play perfect balls, he provided the assist for the first goal for Cristiano.
“So also, from Fred, it’s been one of the best performances since I’ve been here.”
While Fred’s contributions are more of a defensive and protective nature, the Brazilian’s greatest influence was in the forward areas.
Paul Pogba’s fascinating deployment in the so-called ‘number 10’ position has created space for Fred and Ronaldo to exploit.
Pogba was given the freedom to move around the pitch, whether that was dropping into his favorite deeper positions or sneaking behind United’s backline.
He fired Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur all over the place, resulting in huge opening areas of the pitch for Fred and Ronaldo.
And it was this combination of players that led to United’s first goal.
Raphael Varane collected the ball at the halfway line and spotted Fred who had strayed into space just past Ronaldo.
Instinctively, Fred immediately kicked the ball into the corner towards the hiding Ronaldo, and the Portuguese ace had space and time to pull himself together and launch a 25-yard effort into the top right corner.
It was the perfect example of Fred’s efficiency and assiduity in play. He was often guilty of giving away the ball unnecessarily, while his defensive ball work often left much to be desired.
But it was a contest where the Brazilian made a huge contribution and difference to Rangnick’s team.
If such performances are to be consistently replicated, then United could have a chance of finishing the campaign in the top four.