It is roughly twenty years since The Simpsons was relevant. Their first decade was spent lampooning the classics; Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Stephen King’s The Shining and every rock band worth knowing. Their second decade was spent chasing former glories; being inundated with guest appearances while taking trips to New York or Ireland and rehashing the types of jokes that weren’t funny anymore.
The Simpsons was suddenly too aware of its own success, too self-referential and too much a part of the culture it once mocked. So how long before The Simpsons catches up with the demise of Manchester United? It is far too appetising a fall to ignore; the classic ‘sky is falling’ motif that comedy writers love so much.
The moment some semi-conscious, semi-nameless character awakens from a coma (while now paying homage to lesser Stephen King novel The Dead Zone and its lesser-than-Jack-Torrance main character Johnny Smith) to be told Manchester United had signed Fred for £53m.
He immediately shoots up in his bed screaming, “We’ve been sold a rube! We’ve been sold a rube!”
The alarm bells should have rang for Manchester United fans when Fred barely found his way off the bench throughout Brazil’s World Cup campaign last summer. Failing to find his feet in a less-than-stellar supporting cast to Neymar was only the first symptom. That José Mourinho would largely leave him out of the side for the start of the season was a full-scale outbreak of ineptitude.
Fred did play for Manchester United early in the season, but beyond his goal against Wolves, his performances were inconsequential, ineffectual and underwhelming. His passing seemed ‘off.’ He lacked a nose for danger, possessed a surprisingly bad touch (for a Brazilian) and didn’t show any of the promise that he had shown in the Champions League the year previously.
Much like Ander Herrera managed to find a role for himself at Manchester United through his honesty of effort, Fred too found game time easier to come by in 2019. While it began out of necessity, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began to rely on Fred and he played an important role in the win at Paris Saint-Germain.
For a very short while, Fred became a steady, reassuring presence in the United line-up, though this was shattered against Arsenal at the Emirates by another poor first touch which when coupled with his inability to sense danger, resulted in an Arsenal goal.
Had Fred not cost an exorbitant sum, little negative might be said about his maiden season in English football. Yet by virtue of costing more than Kevin De Bruyne, a certain level of excellence is expected.
Excellence was unquestionably lacking from Fred this season, though as the years progress and should supporters forget the inflated sum once paid for Fred, he might serve a useful role as a steady squad player, filling the newly vacated Herrera ‘honesty of effort’ role in coming seasons. AB
When it comes to discussing Fred, he had his ups and downs this season — an acknowledgment you’ve most likely encountered numerous times during our player review series. Surely, Fred’s first season as a Manchester United player was written by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. It had its bright spots, it cost a lot of money but left many of us wondering, ‘is that it?’ Judging by the whimpering final form of this Manchester United season, Fred nor the rest of his teammates definitely don’t possess the firepower to raze a city or City anytime soon.
The Brazilian midfielder was the latest victim of Ed Woodward’s drunken spending spree on EBay that saw the player cost £20 million pounds more than he was worth because Woodward loves the endorphin rush from the whole enterprise. And I admit, I almost fell for Woodward’s plan. How hilarious would it be to wear a United shirt with the name Fred on the back? That’s the name of my favorite Flintstone after all. Plus, Fred rhymes with red, yeah?
With a £50m+ price tag, expectations are going to be high months before even stepping out onto the pitch. Unfortunately, Fred left Shakhtar Donetsk and walked into an environment at Carrington that was a powder keg begging for José Mourinho’s lit match. Soon, Fred’s style of play would clash with Mourinho’s style of joyless football and the Brazilian found himself riding the pine. Not to defend Mourinho because the former manager had a hand in bringing Fred into the fold, but certainly Fred didn’t give Mourinho much reason to continue playing him when he stepped on the pitch. In the only game that Fred scored, he still managed to get subbed off in the 62nd minute.
Fred appeared to turn things around when Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, but, then again, everyone on the team appeared to for a spell. He was an engine for the midfield either in support or in place of Pogba, and he put in a really good shift during the Miracle in Paris. But, like the rest of his teammates, Fred hit the skids after the heroic upset at Paris Saint-Germain, and he saw out the final two matches of United’s end-of-season Hindenburg finish as an unused substitute.
I’ll reiterate, I don’t blame Fred for Shakhtar demanding such a high fee or United meeting that fee, but, unfortunately, he did cost that much and we have to address it. He appears to be a relatively decent role player for the club during cup runs and weeks with back-to-backs but that isn’t good enough when factoring in cost. Fred was a luxury buy in a time when United had to hit on every possible signing, and he’ll be considered a bust until he breaks into the lineup as a consistent starter. NH