This article forms part of our Total Duds feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at a player who has disappointed since being signed, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to illustrate how ill-judged the transfer decision has been.
Manchester United did not hang around when it came to their summer 2018 transfer activity. The first week in June hadn’t even been completed when the club announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk for £52m plus bonuses, as reported by Sky Sports.
The deal made him the Red Devils’ third-most expensive player at the time and came off the back of him being named in Brazil’s squad for the World Cup in Russia, although he did not get a game in the tournament.
Jose Mourinho, the manager who brought him to Old Trafford, said at the time of the signing: “Fred will complement our other midfielders’ qualities, which we need; his creative brain and passing vision will give us another dimension to our game.” [via Sky Sports]
Fred started United’s first three Premier League games of the 2018/19 season but would then endure several months of dipping in and out of the line-up, while his goal in a 1-1 draw against Wolves early in the campaign would be the only one he’d score all season.
Wolves also provided the opposition for his only assist of 2018/19 and, despite getting a sustained run of games in the final third of the campaign, his first year in England ended with just 13 Premier League starts – a rather subdued return for a player who cost £52m the previous summer.
There weren’t many signs of the “creative brain and passing vision” of which Mourinho spoke in June 2018. Fred averaged 45.2 passes and just 0.7 key passes per game last season, with a passing accuracy of 86.3%. Six United players had a better passing success rate, while nine played more key passes per game. [via WhoScored]
Some former Old Trafford stalwarts did not hold back in their assessment of the Brazil midfielder in his first season at the club.
Speaking after a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City last November, Gary Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast: “Does he change a game? Does it look like he’s going to defend your goal? Does it look like he’s going to connect back-to-front? At this moment in time, no.” [via Daily Mail]
After United again lost to their neighbours in April, Roy Keane fumed at Fred on Sky Sports [via The Independent] over letting Raheem Sterling run free of him for one of City’s goals, saying: “That’s cheating, what he’s done is cheating, letting the guy run off him.”
Things have not improved for the 26-year-old in the first few weeks of this season. He has started only one of United’s first eight Premier League games of the campaign, when he was booked inside three minutes in the recent defeat at Newcastle United. [via TransferMarkt]
Even allowing for his lack of minutes in the league, that he is 11th in the list of average passes per game in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad with 35.3 is damning for a midfielder who cost £52m, and he has continued to be hammered by pundits for his ineffective performances.
After United drew with AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League, Michael Owen said on BT Sport [via Daily Mail]: “He’s just a moderate player, isn’t he? That’s the bottom line. What can you say? We were discussing what’s his best position? I probably think it’s a six, Owen [Hargreaves] thinks it’s an eight, but then once you start arguing about it, you think is he that good? He can’t do either role that well and he cost, what, £50m?”
For an outlay of £52m the summer before last, Fred has paid back Manchester United with one goal and two assists in 32 appearances, having been pilloried by several former players at the club. That level of output has simply not justified the vast sum of money paid to him and his frequent absence from the starting line-up is a sign that Solskjaer doesn’t have much faith in him to turn things around.
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