When Manchester United’s season began, Fred was not even in the matchday squad.
A lot has changed since United’s opening weekend 4-0 win over Chelsea, and Fred’s situation is one of them.
Against Sheffield United, for the first time in his Manchester United career, Fred could be looked to as the Red Devils’ midfield leader.
Scott McTominay has filled this role in recent weeks in Paul Pogba’s injury absence, and now he is out too. McTominay has not officially been ruled out of the Sheffield United game, but the Evening Standard report he is ‘doubtful’.
If as expected he is not cleared to play, then extra responsibility falls on Fred. More so than he has ever experienced at United.
Carry on performing
Fred’s possible midfield partners include a returning Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, and James Garner.
Matic is most likely of the three to play alongside Fred, and while his performance will be closely scrutinised, it is the Brazilian who most is expected from.
He is the man in form, and he needs to maintain his recent standards.
Fred was United’s star performer against Brighton in the last game before the international break, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer telling the club website he was the ‘catalyst’ for the team’s performance.
He was effective at winning the ball back in key areas and quickly releasing United’s attacking players.
A start against Sheffield United will be Fred’s sixth in a row, equalling his best run of games since signing for the club. This consistency is helping him.
Winning the game won’t be easy. Not having Scott McTominay alongside him could hurt. A home game against Brighton is easier than an away trip to Sheffield United.
That is why Solskjaer needs Fred to embrace the additional responsibility, rather than shirk it.
Matic is likely to get forward less than McTominay, which could mean Fred needs to be more expansive in his play. The Blades’ competitive midfield are not going to give United’s players much time on the ball, so Fred needs to be sharp.
The international break could have given Fred a much needed rest, or it could have halted his momentum. Hopefully it is not the latter.
Paul Pogba is hoping to be back in two to three weeks’ time, and McTominay perhaps even before that.
Fred can do himself a huge favour by showing that United can win without them both.
This is an unusual situation for him, and one he is unlikely to be in often in the future, but it is crucial he steps up.
If Fred plays well, then Solskjaer’s side have a strong chance of coming away from Bramall Lane with three points.
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