What exactly are Manchester United getting in Brazilian midfielder Fred?
Though the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder impressed during the Champions League last season, notably catching Pep Guardiola‘s eye during group stage fixtures against Manchester City, the Brazilian remains somewhat of an unknown quantity as he nears a move to Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old describes himself as a conductor of play in midfield, and his stats show he’s worthy of that title.
His 85 per cent pass completion rate in eight European games last season is roughly the same as what Paul Pogba achieved across competitions in 2017-18, although it’s slightly lower than those of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.
But what really underlines his credentials as a conductor is the 1.13 chances he created per 90 minutes in the Champions League. That was better than any United player in the competition last season, and when looking at Premier League stats, only Pogba, with 1.53, managed better.
Fred also averaged 0.12 goals and 0.12 assists per 90 minutes, again better than Pogba, Herrera, and Matic in Europe. His corresponding numbers from the Ukrainian Premier League – 0.11 goals and 0.18 assists – would leave him trailing only Pogba’s domestic stats.
If that weren’t promising enough, what should truly excite United fans is Fred’s skill on the ball. His 88 per cent successful take-on rate in the Champions League was a better stat than any incumbent midfielder managed in European competition last season, with Matic’s Premier League rate of 89 per cent just edging him out. As advertised, Fred will be bringing some Brazilian flair to Manchester.
He’s no slouch defensively, either. Only Herrera could best Fred’s 2.25 tackles per 90 minutes in Europe, while that stat tops what any United midfielder managed domestically. Fred also won 54 per cent of his duels, a number that puts him alongside the incumbent trio.
And speaking of Brazilians, any United fan disappointed at seeing Fabinho go to Liverpool should be pleased at getting Fred instead. In the Champions League, the Donetsk man beat his compatriot in every passing stat and just about every defensive stat, losing out only in interceptions and aerial duels. Bear in mind, Fred is 5’7″ and Fabinho is 6’2″.
The new Liverpool signing did have a slightly better goal contribution across competitions, 13 to 11, but much of that was down to Fabinho taking penalties – seven of his eight goals were from the spot.
Put Fred’s attacking and defensive numbers together, and it looks like Manchester United are getting a complete midfielder.
This appeared to signal the moment when transfer rumours about West Ham United’s Marko Arnautovic became real.
A desire to acquire an imposing back-up to Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku is understandable, especially after slender forwards Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both failed to fill the vacuum at the end of 2017/18.
Arnautovic, who responded with a fine assist in a 1-0 friendly triumph against World Cup 2018 hosts Russia, plus Juventus and Croatia attacker Mario Mandzukic, have been linked to the Premier League runners-up.
Here are four alternative targets, who fit the brief of adding quality to the squad and potentially being content with a No2 role.
MAXI GOMEZ (CELTA VIGO AND URUGUAY)
Uruguay’s production line of elite strikers shows no sign of stopping.
From Diego Forlan to Luis Suarez. And now, Edinson Cavani to Gomez.
The 21-year-old powerhouse experienced an outstanding debut campaign in Galicia, notching 17 times in 26 La Liga matches. This figure is made even more impressive by the fact that Celta Vigo finished in 13th.
Just €4 million (Dh17.2m) was paid to Defensor Sporting to land Gomez in May 2017, on a five-year deal.
He would not come cheap, with Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Guoan’s €20m (Dh85.8m) offer ultimately failing in December.
Neither would it be easy to convince him to sit on the bench. But his youth could make Old Trafford seem a perfect learning ground.
ANDRE SILVA (AC MILAN AND PORTUGAL)
The dangers of choosing the wrong move at the wrong time have been shown by Silva this term.
He was acquired to much fanfare last summer from Porto for €38m (Dh163m). But the Portugal centre forward would be misused by Vincenzo Montella and then underutilised by Gennaro Gattuso, ending his debut Serie A-campaign at AC Milan with just two goals in 24 appearances.
This might seem like a player best avoided by United.
But a 22-year-old of this ability should not be written off after one miserable experience.
Silva was a bustling, confident presence at Porto. He’s already notched more than 10 times for his nation.
A shot of confidence from countryman Mourinho could be key to unlocking a latent talent.
FYODOR SMOLOV (KRASNODAR AND RUSSIA)
Misery is the prediction for hosts Russia at this summer’s World Cup.
But one player expected to still excel is Smolov. The 28-year-old has been a late bloomer in his career, 63 goals coming in 99 matches since June 2015’s switch to Krasnodar.
Previously, he’d only scored 16 times in total from 155 run-outs at Dynamo Moscow, Feyenoord, Anzhi Makhachkala and Ural Yekaterinburg.
A move to centre forward has been the catalyst for this dramatic upturn for the tall Saratov-native.
He now carries the weight of a nation’s hopes. As a bullish player for club and country, this test shouldn’t phase him.
Added values for Mourinho are Smolov’s ability to link-up play, plus versatility across the front line.
If he can produce standout displays in an average side this summer, bids could be made.
WOUT WEGHORST (AZ ALKMAAR AND NETHERLANDS)
They don’t come much larger than new Netherlands cap, Weghorst.
Standing at 6 ft 6 in, he is a towering figure for club and country. An outstanding, career-best return for AZ Alkmaar of 27 goals in 37 matches during 2017/18 for AZ Alkmaar was rewarded with March’s international debut as a substitute against England.
With such a striking frame and eye-catching return, Weghorst would appear capable of meeting the physical demands of leading the line at Old Trafford.
He also offers a surprising turn of pace for a man of his colossal size, while six top-flight assists last term point to a valuable team ethic.
The issue with Weghorst comes from the chasm between the Eredivisie and Premier League. As is repeated every time a player from there is linked, for every Ruud van Nistelrooy there are more failures such as Mateja Kezman, Afonso Alves and Luuk de Jong.
Where Weghorst would fit in is an issue United’s scouts would already have grappled with.
Jose Mourinho is set to make Porto teenager Diogo Dalot one of his first summer signings.
According to widespread reports, the 19-year-old defender is to join Manchester United imminently as the Red Devils seek to activate his £17.4m (Dh84.9m) release clause.
Dalot has quickly risen to become one of Portuguese football’s hottest prospects and is already an under-21 international.
Here, we take a closer look at the Porto youth graduate, who played a part in the team’s title-winning success this past term.
Where does he play?
By trade, the 19-year-old is a right full-back who loves to get forward and supplement attacks with lung-busting runs down the right channel.
Inexperienced defensively, the Braga-born man has work to do on his role in the backline but is happy to receive the ball to feet and has composure that almost belies his years.
He has also had some experience operating in defensive midfield and right-wing midfield positions from his time in Porto’s youth set-up.
Is he a long-term replacement for Antonio Valencia?
The Colombian has been a star for the Old Trafford club for near-on a decade and while he has shown no obvious signs of slowing down, at 32, Valencia could help groom Dalot for the right-back berth in the coming years.
With Matteo Darmian surplus to requirements and headed to Juventus next month, United are indeed short in that area and the youngster could well get plenty of game time next season, particularly in domestic cup competition.
Dalot’s 2017-18 campaign
The teenager enjoyed a steady rise under boss Sergio Conceicao this past season, playing six Primeira Liga matches at the backend of it as the Blue and Whites won their first domestic crown since 2012.
Interestingly, Dalot started the season in the club’s B set-up before earning a call-up to the first-team ranks due to his fledging performances at reserve level and in training.
For those not too familiar with the Portuguese top-flight, you may have recognised him from Porto’s Champions League last-16 second leg clash against Liverpool at Anfield, in which they were stuffed 5-0 by Jurgen Klopp’s men.
And before that…
He was part of Portugal’s under-16 side who the European Championship two years ago and triumphed in the same tournament, albeit for the under-17 side, 12 months later.
The defender’s current deal runs out at the end of next season – though the club and the player do have an option to extend that by a further two years.
That contract, as stated, contains a release clause which the Red Devils hope to exploit once the international transfer window opens in June.