The stat that could make Man United fans change their minds about Fred

He has been a divisive figure at Old Trafford.

It is fair to say that Fred has subverted expectations during his two years as a Manchester United player.

Prior to him joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018, some United fans hoped that Fred would be the Brazilian midfield maestro Kleberson was supposed to be at Old Trafford.

All-action, technically adept, just generally a classy player.

But Fred has turned out to be something quite different.

Fred at Man United.

While deceptively edited YouTube compilations depicted a player capable of carrying the ball over great distances and executing defence-splitting passes, Fred has turned out to be more of a midfield destroyer.

And while progress was certainly slow during his maiden season in England – he started just 13 Premier League games in 2018/19 – he has steadily earned the trust of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While Fred offers little going forward – his passing can be erratic, his shooting can be much worse – he has proven himself as an effective shield for United’s defence.

Fred’s stats.

It has now become commonplace for Fred to line out for United in away games against ‘better’ sides, environments in which he is able to showcase his ball-winning abilities when United often look to absorb pressure and play on the counter.

Fred was at it again on Saturday. Paired with Scott McTominay in a double-pivot against Everton, the Brazilian shone during a much-needed win for Solskjaer’s men at Goodison Park.

According to Opta, the 27-year-old was much improved in possession, completing 91 per cent of his passes while creating two chances. He also played a penetrative pass to Marcus Rashford in the build-up to Bruno Fernandes’ second goal.

One of Fred’s most useful attributes is his pressing. While not as polished on the ball as some United fans would like, he is indefatigable off it.

United are not renowned for being a strong pressing team, but Fred is something of an outlier, which has been illustrated by @GoalAnalysis on Twitter.

As can be seen above, Fred was the most intense presser in the defensive third across Europe’s top five leagues last season.

Fred’s proactivity when United are forced back into their defensive third is a key reason for Solskjaer’s faith in him.

Interestingly, as illustrated in the graphic, Jesse Lingard was one of the most intense pressers in the middle third last season, behind only RB Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer.

Unlike Fred, however, Lingard has not featured much this season with injury restricting him to two Carabao Cup appearances.

But while Lingard continues to recover, Fred continues to progress. While many feel he is still some way short of justifying his £47m price-tag, he has already impressed in three big games for United his season (PSG, Leipzig and Everton).

Fred still has his fair share of doubters, and while he won’t figure high in United’s scoring charts this season, his ability to unnerve and hassle opponents is there for all to see.

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