After Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat to Leicester in the FA Cup, it would have been understandable if Fred had been taken out of the firing line. The Brazil international was the worst player on the pitch that day, enduring a torrid afternoon at the King Power Stadium. But he showed his warrior-like mentality by producing a solid performance against Brighton on Sunday night.
United weren’t at their best against Brighton.
But they managed to recover from going a goal down to pick up all three points, boosting their chances of finishing in the Premier League top four in the process.
There were several positives for United to take from the game.
Marcus Rashford scored on his return to the side, having missed the match against Leicester through injury.
Mason Greenwood found the net for the second match in a row, in a sign the England international is coming good at the right time.
Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba both registered assists in a signal their partnership can flourish ahead of the season’s closing stages.
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And then there was Fred, who producing a commanding display in the middle of the park as the Red Devils turned things around.
The Brazil international was dire against Leicester last time out.
He gave the ball away for Kelechi Iheanacho’s first goal of the game and was outran by Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans in the middle of the park.
As a result, he could have been forgiven for feeling apprehensive ahead of the match against Brighton.
Solskjaer, certainly, could have taken him out of the firing line. Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic are all capable of playing in the same position.
But Fred stood tall amid the heat of the battle, refusing to let Brighton midfielders get the run on him and working with diligence at the anchor of their midfield.
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For the most part, United were flat.
But Fred was constantly snapping at the heels of the opposition, recovering possession and laying the foundations for the club’s attacking players to go forward.
Solskjaer, throughout his reign, has tried to offload players who he thinks don’t have the mentality to handle playing for the Red Devils.
But Fred showed with his combative display that he’s up for the task and, now, will be hoping to avoid making any more mistakes.
The whole match reflects well on his character and while United are admirers of Declan Rice, the Brazil international could ensure that pursuit gets put on hold.
Meanwhile, Solskjaer expressed his happiness with United’s mindset after the win at Old Trafford.
“We’ve done that a few times this season, haven’t we? We’re getting used to it,” he said.
“You don’t really want to be in those positions, 1-0 down.
“It was a sloppy mistake in midfield, we don’t stop the cross, we don’t defend the cross, so we gave ourselves work to do. I think we’ve done that so many times this season that the team doesn’t panic.
“We know we have to build momentum, the ball has to move quicker, we have to move more in tandem with each other. The two goals we scored were good goals and we deserved to win the game in the end I felt.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter was disappointed, however.
“I think you have to take positives from lots of things about the performance,” he said. “I thought the first half we were really good, carried a threat, we had opportunities on the ball and defended well.
“Mixed it up between defending high and defending low when we had to because Manchester United have some quality and drive you back, but I don’t think they created too many chances.
“Second half I thought we missed a few options to attack ourselves and got driven back a little more than we’d like.
“When the home team’s 1-0 down and have got the quality they have, you expect that to a certain extent but without creating too many chances a couple of shots from distance but nothing too much.
“It was a big moment with the penalty with Danny that wasn’t given but in the end it’s a couple of moments of quality from United that turned the game.
“I didn’t think there was that much in it, maybe a point would be right but, yeah, that’s life.”