Who is Shakhtar midfielder Fred – and should he join Man Utd or City?

Both Manchester clubs are said to be interested in signing the Brazilian midfielder Fred, with Manchester City thought to be in the driving seat according to former Shakhtar Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu, who reckons the player favours the Etihad.

City are in the hunt for a long-term successor to 33-year-old Fernandinho, who himself made the move to the Etihad from the Donbass Arena in 2013 for £34m.

United, meanwhile, will probably feel they need a central midfielder who can do the things Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba can’t – that is, blitz around the pitch and excel when tasked with showing defensive discipline, respectively.

But where does Fred fit in with all that? Why is he one of the most coveted midfielders in the game today? And where should he go?

What kind of central midfielder is Fred?

Fred is that very modern type of central midfielder who is excellent in both a defensive, passing and dribbling sense.

Able to play a range of passes off both feet, it is easy to understand why the diminutive player has attracted the attention he has.

In the Champions League so far, he’s averaged a passing accuracy of 84%, 64.2% of those being forward passes out of 327 he’s attempted.

These are all admirable stats considering Shakhtar typically conceded possession to Man City and Napoli in their group games, with the club’s possession stats ranging between between 44% and 32% across those four games, despite beating both in Ukraine.

The Brazilian is also more than capable of playing incisive balls through to the front men. Only two Champions League players have threaded through more successful ‘through balls’ in the competition this season: Neymar and Dries Mertens

Fred is also a willing worker in defensive phases; often he covers many km for his team as he tracks back toward his own goal and helps quell danger. In essence, Fred has the characteristics of a holding midfielder, just with some added abilities too.

But perhaps most important to Mourinho, one would assume, is his ability to carry the ball from deep with powerful runs; a characteristic deeper lying central midfielders generally lacked a decade a go.

The reason for this winger-like trait could be because he used to be a left-back, before Lucescu decided he was too “anarchic” on the left and moved him in front of the defence where he’s since thrived.

At 5’7” the Brazilian’s not the biggest. N’golo Kante, for context, is 5’6”. This shouldn’t be an issue, though: Kante is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and City don’t put too much of an onus on physical prowess under Guardiola, while Matic and Pogba don’t necessarily need another great hulking player to stifle their already imposing approach to middle of the park play. Besides the Brazilian is strong and speedy.

And it’s actually that which is so special about Fred, his ability to take players on and almost always win.

The stand-out stat

No Champions League midfielder has a better take-on success rate than Fred (95%), who has pulled off 20 of 21 attempts to dribble past an opponent.
What they say about Fred…

Lucescu on Fred: “Shakhtar Donetsk’s best player is Fred in the centre of midfield. He was a bit anarchic on the left. I moved him in front of the defence. He will go to City like Fernandinho before him.”

Ilya Novikov of Tribuna.com tells ESPN FC: “Fred should be a decent backup for Fernandinho. His style is well suited for Guardiola, and he proved his ability to excel in high-tempo matches against top rivals in the Champions League this term.

“Fred is still less tenacious, aggressive and tactically disciplined compared to Fernandinho. At times he tends to lose concentration, and doesn’t always backtrack quickly enough after losing the ball, but it is possible to improve in those aspects. Fred is very good at moving forward, providing quality through-balls. He feels comfortable under pressure, and his dribbling skills are good for a holding midfielder too.”

A Manchester move on the horizon?

It looks more likely that Fred will go to City, seeing as his former manager said as much. It looks to be a sure thing he’ll be leaving Ukraine in the summer at the least.

Who needs him the most out of the two clubs? 
Probably United. They’re the lesser of the two footballing sides and Michael Carrick is retiring at the end of the season, while Marouane Fellaini is reportedly leaving for Galatasaray in the summer.

Pogba most likely needs to play in a three to excel, so Mourinho may well want a player of Fred’s characteristics to balance out his prospective midfield next term.

Fernandinho can likely fulfil his role for another one or two seasons effectively, so there is less of a pressing need to sign the Brazilian.

However, there is no guarantee United will change to a 4-3-3, and City have one of the best teams this country’s ever seen. For pure footballing reasons, Fred ought to go to City: he’s the exact player profile Guardiola loves.

Post Credit: Squawka

No comments