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BOYS FROM BRAZIL

Fred is quietly making up for Kleberson’s lost time

If you’re a Brazilian-born footballer signing for Man United, there’s a good chance you’ll be a left-footed midfielder.

A 50% chance, to be exact.

Of the six players born in Brazil to pull on a United jersey, only twin full-backs Rafael and Fabio and the right-footed Rodrigo Possebon, who went on to represent Italy at Under-20 level, bucked the trend.

Portuguese Ronaldo meets Brazilian Ronaldo’s mate

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Portuguese Ronaldo meets Brazilian Ronaldo’s mate

The remaining three Brazilians can be divided into two distinct categories.

The first camp contains Anderson, who arrived at Old Trafford as an attacking midfielder amid hype and hyperbole due to his eye for the spectacular.

He’d worn the no.10 shirt at Porto while orchestrating attacks in a side blessed with the considerable talents of Ricardo Quaresma, Pepe and Lisandro Lopez before being reinvented as a box-to-box midfielder under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Despite mixed results, Anderson left United as a four-time Premier League winner with a Champions League medal to boot.

A vintage year for the adidas Predator

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A vintage year for the adidas Predator

The second category contains deep-lying midfielders past and present.

Kleberson served the role of trailblazer, becoming the first Brazilian to represent United when he joined from Athletico Paranaense off the back of a starring show in Brazil’s run to 2002 World Cup glory.

While Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho grabbed the headlines, the then 22-year-old gained the plaudits of Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and was viewed by Sir Alex Ferguson as the ideal foil for Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.

But Fergie would be disappointed. Kleberson, who signed on the same day as Cristiano Ronaldo, lasted two injury-hit seasons at United before Ferguson shipped him off to Turkish side Besiktas.

Making friends

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Making friends

Seventeen years later it’s now Fred who operates in the centre of United’s midfield.

Like Kleberson, Fred appeared to be caught cold by the pace of the Premier League upon moving to England.

Things got so bad that at one stage Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer could be observed, mid-game, trying to coach the 26-year-old on how to position his body to protect the ball. Fred was something of a sitting duck when playing out from the back, with opposition markers regularly pouncing in dangerous areas.

That wasn’t the only similarity between Kleberson and Fred. Both joined United at testing times.

Kleberson’s spell at Old Trafford coincided with United failing to win the Premier League in successive seasons for the first time since 1992. The state of play is currently even worse for Fred, with no open-top bus parades required in the red half of Manchester since Ferguson’s bowed out seven years ago.

Is United’s kit so bad that it’s actually good?

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Is United’s kit so bad that it’s actually good?

But, honours aside, Fred is beginning to succeed where Kleberson failed.

After a tough adaptation process, Fred is now consistently turning in displays worthy of his lofty price tag, if it’s ever possible to justify being priced at £52million.

The Brazilian was arguably the best player on the pitch during United’s meek 2-0 loss to Liverpool, at times taking on Jurgen Klopp’s side single-handedly.

Whereas Kleberson was unable to overcome his initial struggles, Fred appears to be a better player for his turbulent start to life in a United shirt.

Good for keeping babies safe and training professional footballers

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Good for keeping babies safe and training professional footballers

Fred doesn’t have Scholes, Keane, Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy or Gary Neville to lean on when times get tough, as Kleberson could back in 2003.

His midfield partner has tended to be either the inexperienced Scott McTominay or the sluggish Nemanja Matic this season, with injury limiting Paul Pogba to 521 minutes of action in the Premier League.

Conditions, therefore, have not been ideal for improvement. But Fred has found a way. In time, the sixth Brazilian to represent United may well be the best.

Unfortunately, unless there’s an unforeseen change in the wind, he won’t have the trophies to show for it.

Malteser incoming

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Malteser incoming

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