UNITED Back trou­ble has left £52m Fred on bench

Manchester Evening News - - UNITED - By SA­MUEL LUCK­HURST

JOSE Mour­inho has not been play­ing £52m sign­ing Fred due to United’s de­fen­sive in­sta­bil­ity.

Fred, 25, has only started six of the Reds’ 15 Premier League fix­tures and was dropped al­to­gether from the squad for the mid­week visit of Arse­nal.

The Brazil­ian mid­fielder has not fig­ured in any of the last four league games and has lost his place in the na­tional team squad.

Mour­inho started An­der Her­rera and Ne­manja Matic in front of a five-man de­fence against Arse­nal, as Paul Pogba and Marouane Fel­laini were rel­e­gated to the bench. Fred is fit for a re­call against Ful­ham to­day but Mour­inho in­sists his pri­or­ity is shoring up a de­fence which has let in 25 goals in 15 league matches.

“Step by step,” Mour­inho said of Fred’s sit­u­a­tion. “You have also other play­ers in other clubs that needed their time and you have some of them that played even less than what Fred is play­ing.

“I think Fred, when the team is de­fen­sively stronger and doesn’t need in mid­field peo­ple that is more wor­ried in giv­ing bal­ance to the team than be­ing in­volved in cre­ation and at­tack­ing dy­namic, the day we are stronger de­fen­sively, I think the hori­zons for Fred change com­pletely.”

United were more in­tense and ag­gres­sive in at­tack dur­ing the draw with Arse­nal as Jesse Lin­gard, An­thony Martial and Mar­cus Rash­ford lined up in a front three. The Reds have been outrun in all 15 of their league matches and Mour­inho ac­knowl­edged that statis­tic as he noted the team’s im­prove­ment.

“Even the num­bers, the stats that for me are not fun­da­men­tal, but some­times they sup­port our feel­ings, our ideas,” Mour­inho added. “Or some­times a con­tra­dic­tion to it, but is just a con­fir­ma­tion with the num­bers was the match where my team, the glob­al­ity of my play­ers, run more and run more with higher in­ten­sity, too.

“We press the ball more, put dif­fi­cul­ties to the op­po­nent, we were fast in our tran­si­tions. So we had that spirit, we had that men­tal­ity that brought our game to a good level, to a bet­ter level.

“There are spe­cial play­ers with spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics and just to give you a cou­ple of ex­am­ples, [An­der] Her­rera, [Mar­cus] Rash­ford are the kind of play­ers that, even if their game is not phe­nom­e­nal, that in­ten­sity, that de­sire, that sac­ri­fice is al­ways present. But I prefer to say the team as a team had that men­tal­ity.

“I know only two days is not easy [to re­cover] – Ful­ham in the same sit­u­a­tion as us – but prob­a­bly the way they are com­ing to play or try to play will not de­mand as much from them as us, but no ex­cuses.”

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