It has been a struggle for Brazilian Fred since arriving last summer under José Mourinho for £50 million.
Since first stepping foot in England, the team had crumbled and reached a new low with the manager eventually being sacked and relieved of his duties by Christmas. Fred signed up to a team that had the potential, under one of the most successful managers in the game, to challenge on all fronts and win major honours.
It soon became apparent that the Brazil international had walked into a dressing room that had been divided by the Portuguese manager, with matters only getting worse in the lead up to the end of 2018.
However, brighter skies appeared soon after with Ole Gunnar Solskjær returning to Old Trafford as interim manager and giving players a new lease of life. It was evident to see Fred finding it difficult to adjust to the Premier League and football in England, but there was hope on the horizon that the Norwegian manager could give him the confidence to express himself on the pitch.
Confidence is a huge factor in football, no matter your talent. Alexis Sánchez, for example, is one of the most gifted players on the planet, but with his confidence reaching rock bottom, he is playing well within himself and looks lost at times out there. Fred has been similar this season and looked a completely different player from what his team-mates and fans had thought when first acquiring him from Shakhtar Donetsk.
That was until the Miracle in Paris. With very little belief from all around Manchester United that they had the knowhow and tools to overturn their 2-0 deficit suffered in the first leg, they were written off before a ball had been kicked. Suffering from nine injuries and a suspension to Paul Pogba, the Red Devils had a severely weakened side.
Like his team-mates around him, Fred rose to the occasion. Unbothered by the players on the opposite team, the Brazilian made his breakthrough performance for Manchester United – and what a time to have made it.
From what fans have seen this season, Fred has looked panicked when on the ball in the Premier League. As if he is running out of time to make the pass or beat his man and is petrified of making a mistake and losing possession. He has not slotted in as well as some would have hoped and has been poor in both an offensive and defensive manner.
Yet, against PSG, arguably United’s biggest game of the season at present, Fred rediscovered what it was that the club first saw in him. His desire and restlessness was clear throughout the 90 minutes, in which he screened the defence almost perfectly and distributed the ball with clarity. There were no rushed passes or positional errors, just calculated moments of play that helped United take charge of the midfield battle in the second half.
Fred is not known for his defensive qualities and is more of a box-to-box midfielder, but he showed his prowess in front of his two, sometimes three, central defenders when thwarting danger.
There was a moment when the Brazilian was in a one-on-one situation with Kylian Mbappé which would have sounded alarm bells to many United fans. Instead of diving in against the French wizard, Fred stood his ground and waited for the attacker to make his move. When Mbappé did just that, Fred was wise to the piece of trickery, quickly cut it out at source and started a counter-attack. It embodied the player people had seen at Shakhtar.
After the game, Fred told ESPN: “Ole has helped me a lot. He had a lot of chats with me. [Carrick] also speaks to me a lot. That brings me calm that things will turn around for me.
“I’m very, very happy. My confidence is getting better.”
And that is all it is for Fred. He has the ability, he has the talent and he has the desire and hunger to make it work at Manchester United. His celebrations in Paris encompassed his feelings towards the club and how much he wants it to work out there. Fred might just have had his turning point as a Red Devil.