Manchester United had a below-par league run a couple of seasons back in Jose Mourinho’s debut campaign at Old Trafford as they finished in 6th place. But the Red Devils were victorious in the League Cup and UEFA Europa League as winning the latter enabled the club to play in last season’s Champions League.
However, United endured a shocking exit from the elite European competition, following a home defeat against Sevilla in the Round of 16. On the domestic front, Manchester United finished runners-up behind ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City.
Mourinho’s second season usually turned out to be his best at his previous clubs but he failed to grab any silverware last term and fell well short of the Cityzens, who broke several records en route to their comprehensive title triumph.
The Portuguese tactician spent millions last summer and also brought in Chilean star Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal during the January transfer window. Although they defeated City 3-2 at the Etihad in a sensational second-half comeback in early April, the Red Devils suffered a few shambolic defeats against the minnows, and their lack of creativity in the middle of the park was often worrying.
Manchester United have started their summer business by announcing the signing of Shakhtar Donetsk midfield star Fred, and a big money move for the Selecao international is a statement of intent for the club.
Manchester United currently have Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic as their only senior central midfield options, following Michael Carrick’s retirement and Marouane Fellaini’s unwillingness to sign a fresh contract.
The Belgian international has been linked with leaving Manchester United on a free transfer. Therefore, the Red Devils have a massive void in the midfield but the inclusion of the 25-year-old Brazilian should restore the balance as well as depth.
Fred, who is set to cost the Red Devils around £47m, will offer pace, power, and box-to-box movements with a vision to link up with fellow attackers high up the pitch. He played a leading role in making Shakhtar the Ukranian champions and also registered a place in Tite’s 23-man World Cup squad.
The available midfield options at Old Trafford failed to step up last season. Paul Pogba is yet to justify his hefty price tag despite spending two seasons in England since his high-profile move from Juventus in 2016.
Nemanja Matic was a towering presence but often looked slow and worn out. Ander Herrera is only good as a squad player and starlet Scott McTominay is still too young to feature week in week out.
Fred’s arrival will allow Matic to concentrate on shielding the backline and win back possession from deeper positions, whereas Pogba will be allowed more space to make free runs and contribute to goal-bound threats.
Mourinho is looking for further additions but the signing of the Brazilian is undeniably a significant transfer business and a right step towards a successful title challenge against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City next season.