Douglas Costa, Fernandinho, Willian, and Alex Texeira are all Brazilians who have passed through Shakhtar Donetsk’s superb recruitment and development process, launching the players towards honours at bigger European clubs or, in Texiera’s case, a then Chinese record for a Super League acquisition. Fred, the defensive midfielder bought from SC Internacional for a reported €15 million, could be the latest player to move from Ukraine to a club in one of Europe’s top five leagues, with Manchester United reportedly taking a healthy interest.
Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar side play a 4-2-3-1 with a fairly deep midfield double pivot. They press high and hard with a defensive line that pushes up, and the team as a whole look to manoeuvre the opposition towards the wide spaces, win back the ball, and transition rapidly into an attack using the pace and direct running of their wide players. Full-backs that push on, and wide players who are as adept at tucking in as they are at stretching the play wide, assist this style of press.
Fred plays in the double pivot, usually with the Ukrainian ball winner Taras Stepanenko. Shakhtar progress the ball up the pitch by rotating possession between this pivot and the centre backs, Ivan Ordets and Yaroslav Rakitskiy, while the full-backs push up the pitch to support the inside forwards, Bernard and Marlos. Shakhtar attack and defend high, so that the formation can look like a 2-4-4; great importance is therefore placed on Fred and Stepanenko’s ability to cover out into the wide spaces should Shakhtar be caught on the counter, and Fred’s athleticism is a major factor in the team’s ability to compress space vertically without leaving themselves too vulnerable.
In attack, Fred regularly gets forward to support Taison, who plays in the hole. In turn, Taison will drop off as well as get up to support the striker, usually Facundo Ferreyra. Fred has the ability to surge late into the box, like Paulinho does for Brazil, or to play long, intelligent through balls that find either Ferreyra drifting wide into the half-spaces, or the wide players bursting inside towards the space between the opposition full-backs and centre-backs. This ability both to create from deep and get forwards to assist attacking moves, combined with Fred’s undoubted solidity as a covering defensive midfielder, mark him out as a serious talent. He fits the team’s rotating style of attacking, where the focal point of the forward movement switches between players constantly moving between the opposition’s defensive lines.
Fans of Manchester United should hope that Fred is a genuine target for the club. In either of Jose Mourinho’s current favoured formations, the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1, he should fit nicely. His ability with long through balls could benefit Romelu Lukaku, who enjoys playing off the shoulder and working one-on-ones for himself with opposition centre-backs. Similarly, in Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial (should he stay), and Marcus Rashford, United have inside forwards who can make darting runs inside onto Fred’s passes. He has the athleticism and defensive capabilities to work alongside Nemanja Matic in a pivot, or to be a slightly deeper playmaker flanking Matic, with Paul Pogba on the left-hand side, in a 4-3-3. It’s interesting to note that Fernandinho came to Manchester City as a similar sort of player, as used to getting forwards and creating as he was covering and snuffing out opposition attacks, before being converted to a more traditional defensive midfielder. With Matic in the side, United with Fred would have two players who can both defend in the midfield and create from deep, but Fred is more dynamic and would work very well with Pogba in a three-man midfield, freeing the Frenchman up from some of his defensive duties without weakening the side’s overall shape.
Fred would be an astute signing, at once hardening and emboldening Manchester United’s midfield and Jose Mourinho looks to be tracking the right sort of player for next season. Fred the Red has a nice ring to it.
Fred and hundreds of other footballers are available to trade on Football INDEX: https://www.footballindex.co.uk/stockmarket/team