Why Fred's arrival shouldn't be the be-all or end-all for Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba's first two seasons back at Old Trafford have been less than convincing. The mercurial Frenchman's inconsistency has led to Manchester United fans, and football supporters in general, questioning whether acquiring the 24-year-old was money well spent.
We've all seen glimpses of his brilliance. Just look at what he did to Manchester City in the second-half of that incredible 3-2 turnaround victory for Jose Mourinho's men. That isn't enough, though. The Red Devils faithful are clamouring for their midfield maestro to produce week-in-week-out. They have a right to demand that.
Last summer, Nemanja Matic was reunited with the self-proclaimed Special One at the Theatre of Dreams; presumably to unleash Pogba, allowing him to affect the game further up the field, without worrying what's going on behind him. It's fair to say there was a marked improvement in performance-levels, but it's still not enough.
United's first order of business this time around was to acquire Brazil international Fred - signing from Shakhtar Donetsk for around £50million. The energetic, box-to-box man will slot seamlessly in a three-man midfield alongside the aforementioned duo, with Ander Herrera likely to lose his place. That begs the question, will Pogba finally show the world brilliant best on a regular basis? How will the 25-year-old Fred help in that regard?
Well, the first thing to note is Fred's well-roundedness. He'll bring qualities on both sides of the ball, but it's fair to say his best traits lie within the opposing third. Agile, quick, an excellent passer off either foot. He's also good for a goal or two every now and then.
So how does that help Pogba? Well, he'll now have a partner alongside him who won't mind carrying the ball up the pitch. Rather than doing it all alone, Fred will join in, creating more space for his new teammate. The fact that the former Shakhtar man is probably better than Pogba defensively, despite being 5'7 in height, will allow United's #6 to stay further up the field. He'll now be able to make those barnstorming runs into the box more often, with more purpose, with more drive.
Pre-season is huge for them both. The pair will be arriving late due to their participation in the World Cup, but it's the perfect chance for them to get to know each other's games and styles before the serious stuff starts in mid-August. The onus is moreso on Pogba's shoulders than Fred's. He's been here before. The Brazilian hasn't. If he can help his new mate adapt and adjust, there's serious potential there for a midfield duo that can dominate for years to come.
Sure, Fred will help Pogba, there's no doubt about that. The Frenchman has to help himself, though, too. He's already spoken about minor issues between himself and manager Mourinho. This thing is bigger than the arrival of one player, there's more to it than that. First, the player has to get his head right, get the confidence flowing again, and begin to believe in himself. He still has a huge opportunity to win major pieces of both club and individual trophies at Old Trafford, but this season is make-or-break. That would have been the case whether Fred was signed or not.