Jose Mourinho admits Manchester United need to be “stronger defensively” before £52 million ($66m) man Fred can show his true colours.
The Red Devils invested heavily in the Brazil international over the summer, with the club having moved early in an effort to fend off rival interest from Manchester City.
It was hoped that the 25-year-old could slot seamlessly into the fold, with United looking for somebody to fill a midfield void created by Michael Carrick’s retirement.
That area of the field has, however, been a problem throughout the 2018-19 campaign, with Paul Pogba facing more questions of his value and Nemanja Matic struggling to make his usual impact.
Fred has suffered as a result, slipping down the pecking order and not starting a Premier League game since November 3.
Quizzed on what needs to be done to help the South American settle, Mourinho told reporters: “Step by step, 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.”
Fred’s most recent Premier League outing actually came in United’s last top-flight win.
They have gone four games without success since edging out Bournemouth, with injury struggles doing little to aid their cause.
A number of players continue to nurse knocks heading into a home date with Fulham on Saturday, with Mourinho conceding that he is going to need some to play through the pain.
He added when pressed for an update on his walking wounded: “Training session will give us some answers, [Chris] Smalling, [Phil] Jones, [Anthony] Martial, [Eric] Bailly.
“Of course [Victor] Lindelof and Alexis [Sanchez], we don’t even speak about them but we need answers and for sure we are going to play with players not in the maximum of their potential but players who will put themselves available for the team like Smalling did in the last match, like Jones did against Southampton, players in difficulty who go one step forward to try and help the team.”