Fred has moved behind Casemiro and Christian Eriksen in the pecking order while also underlining his worth.
Manchester United midfielder Fred has never quite been fully appreciated at Old Trafford – rightly or wrongly – but Erik ten Hag knows exactly what his “example” brings to the current squad.
Signed by Jose Mourinho four years ago, the Brazil international was a favourite under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and he continued to be a regular starter when Ralf Rangnick was sworn in as interim manager. Fred was, also, a rare shining light in that, otherwise, uninspiring spell before Ten Hag stepped into the dugout this summer.
Often subject to criticism – from pundits, supporters and general observers – the former Shakhtar Donetsk man has had to hold down the role with Scott McTominay during his time at the club. However, with summer signings Casemiro and Christian Eriksen first choice right now, those two players have had to reevaluate.
Stepping in as and when required, Fred and McTominay have not been handed as much match-time as they might have been used to. But when it comes to the 29-year-old, he has enjoyed some success in the final third by making the sort of attacking impact Rangnick surprisingly underlined as one of his strengths.
Fred came off the bench to score against lowly Nottingham Forest shortly after Christmas. It was his eighth direct goal contribution in 2022 – by far his best return in a calendar year.
Speaking about Fred last season, Rangnick said: “For me, he’s an extremely valuable player and a team player in the truest sense, a player who puts in every effort he has and would give his last drop of blood for the team. He’s also a player who can score goals and has those surprising elements in his game with little flick-ons.
“He can also be a technical player, too. That combination makes him extremely valuable and reducing him to only a number six or a defensive midfield player doesn’t rate him highly enough. He can do a lot more than just defend.”
Ten Hag seemingly agrees after calling Fred an “example” during the Everton build-up. He said: “We emphasise a lot of times that we’ve often had players who score goals when they come on from the bench, like Fred did last week.
“Every time that he’s coming on, he’s ready. He’s front-foot and he brings the right quality to the game. That is great to have that as a team and as a manager.”
Ten Hag added: “Of course, Fred wants to play in every game. That’s not always possible and everyone has to battle for his position, but there’s good competition in the squad to play and get into the starting XI.
“But, once again, we need players coming from the bench and giving impact to the game. Fred is the one, and there are others, as well, but Fred is the example.”