Why it is time for Mourinho to drop Nemanja Matic and start Fred
Manchester United have made an underwhelming start to the season, already 12 points behind the leaders and city rivals Manchester City after just 12 league games. Their latest loss in the derby epitomised the gulf in class between them and the Premier League challengers.
Jose Mourinho hasn’t been able to field a side capable of keeping clean sheets, a strength on which the Portuguese’s playing system relies upon. The Red Devils have already shipped in 21 goals, at a rate of close to two per game. Last season, they conceded 28 games in 38 league games.
While the back-four isn’t playing up to the standards required to succeed at Old Trafford, the midfield is a problematic area as well. The way Nemanja Matic is playing like a passenger in the past few games, including the humongous clash against City, the alarm bells should ring for the Serbian.
Putting on a Manchester United jersey, taking up the all-important number six role and just strolling around won’t work at all. Hence, it is high time Mourinho reacts and drops the 30-year-old and instead gives new signing Fred a chance to shine.
Fred could make a difference
The Brazilian was a big money signing (£52m) in the summer transfer window and expectations were high, partly because of the price tag. However, he hasn’t featured for United as much as everyone would have anticipated.
The 25-year-old has played only seven games thus far, and a total of just 485 minutes out of the 1080 minutes of league football the club has played.
It’s true that foreign players from other leagues do take time to settle in because of the sudden jump in the intensity of the Premier League. After the third international break, it is time that the ex-Shakhtar Donetsk starlet gets his fair share of opportunities on the pitch.
He can operate in a double pivot midfield, maybe alongside Paul Pogba, with Juan Mata as a number 10 – Mourinho’s go-to formation back at Chelsea when he was at his peak.
The Portuguese can deploy that again at Manchester United and hope for the best. The energy and the drive of Fred, combined with the free-flowing style of Pogba could make a great couple in central midfield. The technical abilities of Mata in the hole between the lines would be ideal as well.