Manchester United midfielder Fred admits he “suffered” in his first season at Old Trafford, but hopes to have silenced those who were quick to brand him a £52.5 million ($70m) flop.
The Red Devils invested heavily in the Brazil international when luring him away from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018, with rival interest from neighbours Manchester City fended off to get a deal done.
Big things were expected of Fred in England, but he found an adjustment period tough and slipped down the pecking order while taking in just 25 appearances during his debut campaign.
Positive progress has been made from that point, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handing the 27-year-old a prominent role in the present, with the South American relieved to be over his struggles.
“I suffered a lot with my first season, even for the amount they paid. You come with a high expectation, it turns out that if you don't play all the games well, you will be criticised.
“I suffered a lot of criticism from the press and the fans, but I always kept motivating myself, working. I never dropped the shuttlecock.
“I was even treated as a ‘flop’, a contract that doesn't pay. But I kept working my best.
“In the second season I started without playing, I stayed a few games away and then I managed to get the starting place.
“And then I came in a good sequence, I managed to win over the fans, the coach, the press, who speaks well. It is the result of hard work, it is not overnight.
“If people criticise, you have to keep working. Sometimes it is good to hear criticism because you are more attentive.
“I heard some people on my side saying that I have to improve. Today I came back, I'm very happy and I want to stay for many years.”
On where he has improved across two-and-a-half years, Fred added: “I think particularly what I improved was defensively.
“I didn't score so well. I played for the biggest team in Ukraine, and there is a game where we used to keep the ball a lot, and it turns out that it didn’t require a lot of marking.
“Arriving here in the Premier League is different, you have to have a better fight, be faster with the ball.
“This I improved a lot, think faster. There are some things that I couldn't do better in the first season, but I've been improving.
“And today I'm getting along with it. I think the main thing was the defensive part. In the offensive part, I improved the pass a lot, getting the ball faster in the congested medium, positioning. This improves with each workout and the trend is only to grow.”
Fred’s efforts in 2020-21 have helped United to the top of the Premier League table, with a rejuvenated outfit daring to dream of title glory as they prepare for a crunch clash with defending champions Liverpool on Sunday.