EPL

Solskjaer in Fred tribute ahead of Brazilian's 100th Man United game

By Sports Desk February 12, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded Fred for building a career for himself at Manchester United after a rocky start, with the midfielder preparing to make his 100th appearance for the club.

Fred joined United in 2018 for a reported £52million from Shakhtar Donetsk, the deal seen as a significant coup for the Red Devils after he had been heavily linked with bitter rivals Manchester City. 

Pep Guardiola was said to have seen Fred as the ideal long-term replacement for Fernandinho, but United fans were left underwhelmed by what they saw in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 Premier League appearances. 

But he showed signs of improvement last season and has become one of Solskjaer's go-to players for the biggest matches, highlighting the manager's trust. 

In 2019-20, Fred improved virtually across the board statistically, averaging more passes (66.4 to 69.5), interceptions (1.4 to 1.6) and touches (85.3 to 91.1) per game than he had in his first season. 

He has dropped off in some of those areas this term, but his increase in tackle attempts (3.2 from 2.5) and interceptions (at 1.9 this season) per game, coupled with the fact he is losing possession less often (11.5 occasions, down from 14.5 per 90 minutes) suggests he has become more comfortable with his defensive role and the speed of the English game. 

His 3.2 tackles attempted per 90 minutes is the seventh-most of all Premier League players to have featured at least 10 times this term, and Solskjaer has no doubt where the praise should lie. 

"He's really done well. I've enjoyed working with him these past couple of seasons," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom. 

"When I came in, he was a boy who was struggling a little bit. I got numerous questions about Fred in press conferences early on. As I said then, players coming into a new country, it takes time to settle - and it took some time for Fred to settle. 

"He has settled now, he's grown in confidence. There's less time in the Premier League than what he was used to. He's quickened up his game, he's not getting caught on the ball.

"I'm not going to take any credit for that, of course. It's the coaches - I think Michael Carrick and Kieran [McKenna], they've been brilliant with him, but it's Fred himself who has had the hunger and humility to learn and want to improve, stick at it and keep working. 

"There are not a lot of people who can say they've played 100 games for Manchester United. Hopefully there will be many more [games] to come - and hopefully he will score from outside the box soon, but I'm not sure it’s going to be with his right [foot]! I've tried to tell him." 

With Solskjaer confirming Paul Pogba remains sidelined with a thigh injury, Fred looks likely to play again this weekend and his most-likely partner behind Bruno Fernandes will be another United midfielder who has attracted praise this season. 

Scott McTominay scored the extra-time winner as United beat West Ham 1-0 on Tuesday to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, taking the Scotland international's tally for the season to seven goals. 

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) and Marcus Rashford (16) have more than McTominay across all competitions in 2020-21, with Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani also on seven each, and Solskjaer is urging the midfielder to reach double figures. 

"Of course, to add goals from midfield is vital," Solskjaer continued. "Last season our three forwards were brilliant and really efficient and scored goals - 60 odd - and Bruno came in and scored goals. 

"We need more goals from midfield and Scott does have that ability to go box-to-box. He's a threat inside the box and he used to be a striker. 

"I think for us to move up the league and be successful in the cups, we need our forwards to keep on firing - getting more goals - and I wouldn't mind some midfielders adding a few.

"If Scott can get into double figures then that would be a very good season for a so-called defensive midfielder."

Related items

  • Pioli demands Rossoneri response ahead of Juventus test Pioli demands Rossoneri response ahead of Juventus test

    Stefano Pioli has called for Milan to respond to Wednesday's demoralising defeat at Chelsea when they host Juventus in a huge Serie A clash on Saturday.

    Goals from Wesley Fofana, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James condemned Milan to their heaviest ever Champions League group-stage loss last time out, ensuring the Rossoneri remain third in Group E.

    Milan have fared better on the domestic front, however, and sit four points clear of the under-fire Bianconeri in the early-season Serie A table.

    Speaking at Friday's pre-match news conference, Pioli called for Milan to set their chastening defeat at Stamford Bridge aside as he demanded defensive improvements.  

    "We put the game in London behind us straight away and we'll revisit it from Sunday onwards," Pioli said. "The players are eager to react. 

    "This doesn't necessarily mean we'll win because the opponents exist too, but we won't be lacking in desire, motivation and determination.

    "We've conceded a few too many goals. We can do better, and Chelsea did well to make the most of our mistakes the other night. 

    "When there are simple situations, a team of our quality needs to be more attentive. We're a bit more of an attacking side than last year, but I don't think that it can be put down to this.

    "Often, we have the numerical superiority, and we can interpret certain situations better."

    Milan's last home outing saw them lose to Serie A leaders Napoli, ending a six-match winning streak at San Siro in the competition. The Rossoneri have never lost successive home league games under Pioli.

    Meanwhile, Pioli has defended young forward Charles De Ketelaere, who has yet to score since joining from Club Brugge, comparing his early struggles to those of Rafael Leao and Sandro Tonali.

    "He's on the right path, and I'm happy with what he's doing. I remember Rafa three years ago and Tonali in his first year," Pioli said.

    "Many were quick to criticise them and question their qualities. Charles is talented and needs time to adapt and learn about certain situations, but he's on the right path."

    Although Juventus have made an underwhelming start to the new campaign, they have lost just four Serie A games in 2022, and Pioli expects a stern test.

    "During a season, there are two or three games that carry more weight, and going up against Juventus is of particular importance for many reasons," Pioli said.

    "We're all responsible for the performance in London, and we're determined to show that we're a different team compared to the one that showed up on Wednesday."

  • The Numbers Game: Dortmund plotting to end miserable Klassiker run, could Hummels halt free-scoring Bayern? The Numbers Game: Dortmund plotting to end miserable Klassiker run, could Hummels halt free-scoring Bayern?

    It is a long time since the winners of a Klassiker may not be sitting pretty at the top of the Bundesliga at the end of the game.

    But even a ninth successive victory for Bayern Munich over Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday may not be enough for the champions to be at the summit.

    Bayern head into the first showdown with Dortmund this season in third place, level on points with Edin Terzic's fourth-place side as Union Berlin surprisingly lead the way ahead of Freiburg after eight matches.

    It is the first time in 13 years that neither side have been in the top two when this fixture has kicked off.

    Dortmund have already suffered three Bundesliga defeats this season, but they come into the game buoyed by a 4-1 Champions League victory at Sevilla.

    Bayern hammered Viktoria Plzen in midweek after a 4-0 rout of Bayer Leverkusen, so there could be goals aplenty this weekend.

    Stats Perform previews the 132st showdown between the two rivals in all competitions in the Bundesliga era by picking out some standout Opta data.

     

    Dortmund desperate to end dismal Klassiker run

    The last time Dortmund got the better of Bayern was back in August 2019, when they 2-0 winners in the German Super Cup.

    Their two goalscorers in that game are no longer at the club, with Jadon Sancho at Manchester United and Paco Alcacer with Sharjah.

    Dortmund have not beaten Bayern in the Bundesliga since winning a classic 3-2 in November 2018, Marco Reus – who is missing this weekend due to an ankle injury – claiming a double.

    Only against Hamburg between 1982 and 1985 have Dortmund lost eight competitive games in a row, so another defeat this weekend would set an unwanted record.

     

    Hummels could make timely return

    Mats Hummels has missed the two games since the international break due to illness, but could return against his former club.

    Nine of the 10 goals Dortmund have conceded in the Bundesliga this season have been when Hummels was not on the pitch.

    They have shipped only goal in 512 minutes while the vastly experienced centre-back has been on the field, but let in one every 23 minutes without him.

    Terzic said ahead of the match: "We would be very happy if he were an option. It's a case of seeing how he feels and how his body reacts to the workload."

     

    Sane and Musiala firing for free-scoring Bayern

    Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala have made great starts to the campaign for Julian Nagelsmann's side.

    Sane endured a difficult start to life at Bayern after his move from Manchester City, but the winger has scored nine goals this season – four of those coming in the Champions League.

    Only Gerd Muller has scored more than Musiala's five goals in eight matches at the start of a Bundesliga season as a teenager, the Bayern and Germany legend striking seven times at the start of the 1965-66 campaign.

    Falling behind may not be a problem for free-scoring champions

    The importance of starting strongly is stressed so often, but Bayern may not be too concerned if they go behind.

    That is because Dortmund are the only team this Bundesliga campaign to lose twice after leading in games (3-2 v Werder Bremen and 3-2 at Cologne). 

    Not that Bayern have been slow to get going, as they have scored 16 goals in the first half of Bundesliga games this season, with no other team scoring more than nine.

  • Much more to come from Bellingham, says Dortmund boss Terzic Much more to come from Bellingham, says Dortmund boss Terzic

    There is "much more to come" from Jude Bellingham, according to Borussia Dortmund head coach Edin Terzic.

    Bellingham captained the Bundesliga side during Wednesday's 4-1 win at Sevilla, where he became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

    The only other player to achieve that feat is his former Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland, who did so with Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

    Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, back in 2004-05.

    The 19-year-old England international has been in good form for club and country, and Terzic believes he can get even better.

     

    "[Bellingham] has been playing very consistently, getting more control and balance in his game," he said at a press conference ahead of Dortmund's Der Klassiker clash with Bayern Munich.

    "We are very happy with the way he presents himself here every day. But this is not the end, there is much more to come."

    Dortmund and Bayern head into Saturday's contest level on points in the Bundesliga, both two points behind surprise leaders Union Berlin and second-placed Freiburg.

    Terzic is hopeful his team can produce a similar performance to the one in Seville, rather than their last league outing, where they lost 3-2 at Koln.

    "We will not only need a good and disciplined tactical performance; we will need courage too," he said. "Courage to keep the ball, courage in one-on-ones and to get shots away.

    "Not only against Bayern, but especially against Bayern."

    The 39-year-old confirmed Marco Reus will not return for the game, having already been out with an ankle injury before illness halted his rehabilitation this week.

    However, Mats Hummels could be back after his own illness, with a hopeful Terzic saying: "We would be very happy if he were an option. It's a case of seeing how he feels and how his body reacts to the workload." 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.