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Fred might need to find himself a new position at Manchester United

3 min read

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s choice of substitutions during Manchester United’s victory over LASK Linz were slightly peculiar.

It hardly mattered given United’s overwhelming aggregate advantage, yet it did not bode well for the two players hooked around the hour mark at Old Trafford. Jesse Lingard and Fred had arguably been United’s best players in the game up until that point, though admittedly that was a low bar as Solskjaer’s side laboured for much of an anodyne contest.

Still, to see the two men – starved of regular football since football restarted in June – replaced by Paul Pogba and Andreas Pereira was a little odd. Especially as others like Daniel James and Scott McTominay had been much more scruffy and wasteful on the ball. And with United’s next game not until Monday, it wasn’t as if they were taken off to be rested.

Solskjaer admitted that Lingard, scorer of United’s only goal to that point, had been gutted with the decision to replace him. Paul Scholes on BT Sport punditry duty then questioned Lingard’s future at Old Trafford, an issue that may well be resolved one way or another this summer.

Yet you wonder what the future holds for Fred and whether the Brazilian midfielder, who seemed so pivotal for United at the outset of 2020, needs to reinvent himself.

He offered more than McTominay in midfield against LASK with his blend of energy and snappy passing, but the two clearly must do more in these games to convince their manager they must start more regularly.

Neither are in Solskjaer’s strongest 11 right now, firmly behind Pogba and Nemanja Matic, though the Norwegian does seem to favour McTominay when pushed for an other option. Fred is the fourth choice central midfielder; a fairly significant fall from grace.

But perhaps the biggest imbalance in United’s squad offers Fred that chance to convert himself into a player of more value to Solskjaer.

Luke Shaw’s injury means he will play no part in the rest of the Europa League campaign and leaves United without a naturally left-footed full back. Brandon Williams has surpassed expectations with his emergence in the past season but has looked a little rash and ragged since coming back into the side.

That Solskjaer felt compelled to give Tahith Chong an outing at left-back in the latter stages against LASK suggested the United boss knows there is an issue to solve here. Williams deserves to be the man in possession but the back-up is non-existent, especially with Solskjaer seemingly lacking any faith in Diogo Dalot. Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Chong may be options, but why not Fred as a left back?

He has all the attributes required, with the stats showing he is among the quickest players in United’s squad. His left-foot is strong and he has the stamina to charge up and down the flank for 90 minutes or more. His passing and crossing should not be an issue.

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The biggest problem, of course, may be a lack of familiarity with the position. The only previous time Fred has played at left-back for United came when Shaw and Williams both suffered injuries in the 2-2 draw with Southampton last month. That was a chaotic few minutes and it was not Fred’s fault that United conceded late to drop two valuable points.

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Yet it showed Solskjaer’s thinking. So perhaps the upcoming Europa League quarter-final against Copenhagen could be the time to trial it over 90 minutes.

As both Solskjaer and Lingard have said, the pressure is off United somewhat as they head to Germany for knockout football. But they could learn a few key tactical lessons, ahead of the new Premier League season starting in around a month’s time.

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