Gary Neville said two United players should be spared criticism, actually there's a third

Manchester United’s nightmare 2021/22 season is almost at an end. It is safe to say there are not many contenders for the ‘player of the year award’ – with a theoretical ‘worst player of the year’ trophy having multiple contenders.

Former captain Gary Neville said this week, speaking to his Sky Sports podcast, only two players should be spared criticism.

Neville said: “De Gea and Ronaldo I think have held their own this season, they’ve performed well, but not one of them other than that can have any complaints about whatever happens to them this summer. They really can’t. It’s been a really shocking two or three months, I can’t wait for the season to be over, I can’t wait to stop talking about them.”

His sentiments are understandable, this season has been agonisingly awful. But we would suggest there is one senior player aside from the two he mentions, who deserves some credit.

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Fred should be spared criticism

Fred is a player who has shown improvement across the season and deserves credit for the impact he has made amid a highly difficult campaign for all concerned.

The Brazilian began it well, scoring in the first game of the season against Leeds, and has gone onto record a personal best for goals scored in a Manchester United shirt, with following strikes against Crystal Palace, Leeds (again), and Leicester.

Fred had previously scored four goals in three seasons for Manchester United, so he deserves some credit for matching that paltry tally in a single season.

He has also showed a creative element in midfield too, getting forward more under Ralf Rangnick.

Fred has five assists in total, four of which came under Rangnick and one under Michael Carrick, against Arsenal, Aston Villa (2), Brentford, and Tottenham. Last season Fred only managed two assists, and this is a personal best.

All of this personal improvement has come against the backdrop of Manchester United regressing, so Fred does deserve credit, and does not deserve to be criticised to the same extreme as the rest.

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Of course he is not absolved of the collective failure of United, and there have been games where he has not been effective, especially early in the season under Solskjaer, starting both home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

But there have been notable games he has missed. He was not involved in the Watford defeat, and was only a substitute in defeats to Brighton and Middlesbrough, and was also injured for the recent losses at Liverpool and Arsenal.

Fred has become an important part of United’s squad, as he has for Brazil at international level. It will be interesting to see whether Erik ten Hag believes he has a role as a starter or back-up, but he has certainly done enough to compete for his spot next season at the very least.

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