For Man Utd fans it’s been an up and down season, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players damned and then revered in equal measure. No player epitomises the fans’ feelings more than Brazilian midfielder Fred. United fan Andy takes a sideways look at United’s fortunes and the man with the shittest name in the game.
Let’s be brutally honest here. As a Manchester United fan, I have been spoilt beyond all of my wildest dreams. 99, 08… more cups than your local cafe. Not to mention some of the players. King Eric, Giggs, Beckham, Scholes… and Ronaldo. Let’s be honest when Ronaldo bambi’d his way onto the pitch on his debut I was a little confused. Admittedly this was during my very heavy drinking years and I was expecting to see the fat, bald, big-toothed bastard from Brazil. But no, it was the fresh faced step over magician from Portugal. Yet another fine signing from the maestro Sir Alex.
But now the whistle has been blown on Fergie time, and since then we have had the Chosen One, the Special One and Louis’ barmy army… a bat shit crazy army at times. Collectively they have spent big and spent bad. Don’t get me wrong, Fergie signed a few stinkers in his time. Anderson, Obertan, Veron, Bellion. What about Manucho? Manuch-who more like. Eric Djemba-Djemba, so bad they named him twice, and has more stamps in his passport than a drug mule having played club football in France, England, Qatar, Denmark, Israel, Scotland, India, Indonesia and Serbia. Unfortunately, I can’t forget about Massimo Taibi. I still have nightmares to this day about when he let Matt Le Tissier’s tame shot trickle through his legs.
Anyway, I digress – back to recent times and the aforementioned crop of managers who really went to town, signing some proper stinkers. Collectively they have spent almost £900 million to date. Marouane Fellaini for example. The big Belgian was almost a step too far. Yes, he scored a couple of important goals, but a tactical decision based around the idea of “stick on the big bloke and we will just chuff it up the field and hope old microphone head will get on the end of it” is just not good enough. We may as well have gone the whole hog and brought in Crouchie and Andy ‘oooh me leg’ Carroll. You can’t be taken seriously as a title contender with purchases like that! I have made better buying decisions when I have left all of the present shopping until Christmas Eve and the only shop you have time to get to is Asda…Oh how my sons face lit up when he ripped off the wrapping to see that Santa had left him a My Little Pony duvet set and a kilo of ribeye steak…
Now we have ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’ and it seems to be so far so good. Solskjaer has signed five: Daniel James, Harry Maguire, Odion Ighalo, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes. This latest addition to the team looks very promising with the 25-year-old Portuguese showing early signs that he could be a great. Bruno’s little dink of a free kick over the top to Martial against City was a thing of beauty. But there is another who has got lost amongst all of the flotsam and is probably a bit of a moot point with most… Fred. Granted the little Brazilian is no Paul Scholes, and he took his time settling in, but over the past few months before the lockdown he was starting to come good. Ole had a massive disaster in the middle of the park with inherited dross and more injuries than you could shake a Hargreaves at, so he didn’t have much choice but to play him. Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos, known simply as ‘Fred’ has seemingly stepped up to the mark. His passing has dramatically improved and he genuinely looks like he is putting in a shift as he Jack Russell’s his way after the ball. Is he a world class player? No. But the treble winning team of 99 had the likes of the Neville brothers, Wes Brown and Nicky Butt. None of them would set the world on fire. However, surround them with a Scholes, Beckham, Keane and Cole and you paper over the cracks.
Maybe Solskjaer knows this as he was part of it, and he also knows more about the beautiful game than most give him credit for. Fred isn’t great, but he is certainly good enough. Tidy up in the middle alongside McTominay and make sure you are moving the ball forwards to the likes of Rashford and Fernandes and hey presto you’ve got a good chance of winning something. Fred has yet to give me nightmares and is the sort of player that will give everything; doing the meat and potato stuff which allows the stars to shine.
What now for Ole? A mixture of sensible signings and bringing through talent from the academy? Can he turn it around for United? Only time will tell; United fans are just hoping he doesn’t leave it until the 93rd minute to show us like he did in ‘99.