Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stated after the Everton game that Fred and McTominay make the most stable and disciplined midfield partnership in his team, allowing his attackers to thrive. The pair were at their sparkling best from the first whistle against Ancelotti’s men, with some sharp passing, solid defensive screening, and energy levels that Everton’s midfield just could not deal with.
It’s no wonder why the gaffer relies on both Fred and McTominay in the big fixtures, and they rarely put a foot wrong. In Solskjaer’s customary 4-2-3-1 shape, both players play in a double pivot and offer defensive stability as well as are influential in build-up play.
While Matic and Paul Pogba both possess the latter, they do not offer the same defensive shielding that both Fred and McTominay have so regularly provided, as was evident in United’s 6-1 mauling at the hands of Tottenham at Old Trafford.
Against Tottenham, every time United lost the ball, there was a great threat of Tottenham scoring again at the other end. It was purely down to the lack of discipline, slack positional play, and laboured pressing, and it’s the reason why the manager has abandoned the pairing of both Matic and Pogba.
The real question for Ole is will the Fred-McTominay pivot be the go-to midfield partnership for much of the campaign? If so, what does that mean for Pogba, Matic, and Van de Beek? Or will he turn to Fred and McTominay only when it’s absolutely necessary? It is a huge headache to have but certainly a luxurious one.
Although both have proven their worth to Solskjaer and staked a strong claim for regular berths, it’s Fred who has impressed the most. The Brazilian’s growth, maturity, understanding, and performance levels over the past year has been nothing short of brilliant.
Since joining Man Utd, Fred has made more ball recoveries per 90 in the Premier League than any other outfield player with 900+ minutes.
You’ll get tired just looking at his defensive coverage. 😰 pic.twitter.com/ydzG48luOB
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 1, 2020
The 27-year-old midfielder is an example to any footballer currently struggling to come to terms with the rigours of the Premier League. The Brazilian has proved that with constant hard work and willingness to improve, you can turn things around and Fred has exemplified that since.
Against Everton, Fred provided a timely reminder that he is Solskjaer’s go-to man in midfield. Both he and McTominay provided United with the platform to strut their stuff going forward. Along with defensive stability, both also possess the mobility and speed to cover much distance.
In contrast to Nemanja Matic, their speed and mobility enable them to screen the middle third. Besides, they uniquely possess the personal discipline to play in that role and not be tempted to abandon post in search of greater impact further up the pitch, unlike Paul Pogba.
Much of that work further up the pitch is handed to Fernandes (who was outstanding against Everton), Rashford, and Martial, but that’s not to say Fred cannot make a telling contribution. One skill the Brazilian has always held, even despite his struggles early on in his United career, is the ability to find his teammates in penetrative areas and Fred did just that against Everton. His pass for Rashford, which the forward should have scored, was simply unerring, dissecting the Everton back-line at will.
His stats against Everton highlight his significance to the United team even further. Fred completed 61 passes (of 67 attempted, 91% accuracy), 19 more than any other United player, 2 key passes, 5 long balls, 3 accurate through balls, 2 successful tackles, and 1 interception (WhoScored). These stats against Everton point towards the all-action style portrayed by Fred, and just the kind of influence he brings to the United cause.
— utdreport (@utdreport) November 9, 2020
He’s also amongst the most intense pressers in Europe’s top five leagues this season so far. It’s pretty damning to say that the Brazilian is currently keeping Paul Pogba out of United’s playing XI, but if you evaluate Fred’s performances over the past few games, you should conclude that he deserves his place.