Scott Patterson: Fred the Red to tread in United Brazilians’ footsteps

Old Trafford hasn't been graced by much Brazilian flair or trickery, but Fred's arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk promises to end that trend...


Fred has become the sixth Brazilian player to sign for Manchester United after his £47 million transfer was confirmed on Tuesday morning. The deal was hardly the club’s best-kept secret, but supporters can feel chuffed that he opted to sign for Jose Mourinho.

Just a week ago, Brazilian compatriot Gabriel Jesus claimed he had thought the midfielder was signing for Manchester City, but, after visiting Liverpool for a friendly between Brazil and Croatia, Fred is a red.

Still, when looking at the Brazilians who have trod the path before him, it has been a mixed bag.

Kleberson was the first to move to Old Trafford after Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt on him thanks to his performances in the 2002 World Cup.

Bruno de Souza (R-black), goalkepeer of Flamengo CR of Brazil, celebrates with Kleberson (L) and Fabio Luciano after scoring against Coronel Bolognesi of Peru, during their 2008 Libertadores Cup football match, at Maracana stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 23, 2008. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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The midfielder played in the victory over England, before setting up Brazil’s second goal in their 2-0 win over Germany in the final. He also hit the cross bar, having beaten Oliver Kahn.

“One of the reasons we sold Seba Veron was because we knew we were getting Kleberson – that shows how highly we regard his talent,” Sir Alex Ferguson said at the time, jinxing him to the same fate the Argentinian suffered at the club.

Signing in the same summer as Cristiano Ronaldo, the players enjoyed differing fortunes from that moment on.

Kleberson spent two seasons at the club, playing a total of 30 games, before being sold to Besiktas for half of what United had paid for him.

Manchester United football player Anderson (R) battles for the ball with Mario Gjurovski (L) of the Singha All Star during an exhibition match at Rajamangala National stadium in Bangkok on July 13, 2013. Singha All Stars won 0-1. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

It wasn’t a case of once bitten twice shy for Ferguson though, who sanctioned the sizeable £19 million transfer fee for Brazilian teenager Anderson in the summer of 2007. United were champions and looking to build a squad that was capable of winning the Champions League, and that’s exactly what Anderson helped United to do.

He made 38 appearances in his first season and ended the campaign with two medals around his neck. First, United saw off Chelsea to win the Premier League before beating them in the Champions League final.

Anderson was brought off the bench in the last minute of extra-time with the trust of the manager to take one a penalty, after Ryan Giggs suggested to the manager that Ando was the man for the occasion. With the teams level after five spot kicks each, the Brazilian took United’s first in sudden death after John Terry missed, smashing it in to the centre of Petr Cech’s goal.

Songs about him sh*tting on Cesc Fabregas still get sung on the terraces by United supporters, given his knack of showing up in the big games against the big players.

“After we’d scored six, I started to take the p*ss with the ball,” Anderson later reflected on the 8-2 victory over Arsenal. “The manager had to take me off!”

He regularly got the better of the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fabregas, even if his overall level began to slip.

Ferguson was a big fan of Anderson’s and the fans warmed to his cheeky personality but it became apparent that he had taken his eye off his fitness. He was overweight and kept picking up injuries.

“I’d do more for me; I’d be more careful with injuries,” he responded when asked if he could have his time over again. “But aside from that, I have no regrets. I loved to be at Manchester United, loved it.”

Rodrigo Possebon was the third Brazilian at the club, who picked up somewhat of a cult status among some supporters, chanting his “Posse-Possebon” from time to time. Given he only ever played eight games for the club, it’s remarkable he got any recognition.

Maybe he was doomed from the beginning, considering he almost got his leg broken in his first start for the club. He had the makings of a decent player but it never worked out for him at Old Trafford. He’s 29 now and playing in Vietnam, after short stints at various Brazilian clubs.

The most popular of all the Samba boys are undoubtedly the Da Silva twins, who United first spotted when they were just 15 and who joined the club two years later.

They were supposed to be United’s full-backs for the next decade, once Patrice Evra and Gary Neville hung up their boots, and they got close to making it. With 225 appearances for the first team between them, they were part of some great moments at the club.

The images of Rafael squaring up to Carlos Tevez after he signed for bitter rivals Manchester City are burned in to the memory. As he took the fight to Liverpool whenever we played at Anfield.

“There isn’t a single day that I don’t pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming about playing for Manchester United,” he said at the start of his third season in the first team. His passion for the game and the club were well liked by the fanbase.

It was his brother, Fabio, who was picked ahead of him at right-back in the 2011 Champions Final though. He had joined the club with the higher reputation, captaining the Brazilian U-17 team, but it was Rafael who enjoyed the better United career overall.

Maybe if Ferguson had stayed at the club they wouldn’t have been sold. Maybe if they didn’t pick up lengthy injuries every season their United future could have been brighter. It was a sad day when Rafael and Fabio were sold to Lyon and Cardiff, respectively.

Lyon’s Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva reacts after losing a goal during the French L1 football match between Dijon FCO and Olympique Lyonnais, on April 20, 2018, at the Gaston Gérard Stadium in Dijon, central France. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

Finally, there’s Andreas Pereira, who has spent the last two seasons out on loan in Spain. He has shown promise for both Granada and Valencia but his future hangs in the balance after he defied Jose Mourinho’s wish for him to stay at the club last summer. The midfielder wanted regular playing time, and that’s what he’s had, although you’d imagine he may have had all the games Scott McTominay was afforded had he stayed.

The Brazilians have eight Premier League winners’ medals among them but the years where they genuinely contributed to the success are fairly limited. Anderson and Rafael had good seasons and there was the feeling they were on the cusp of greatness but, for one reason or another, were unable to maintain their highest form.

In Fred, United fans will be hoping they have their first real Brazilian star, whose passing is as impressive as his tackling, and whose willingness to have a shot is matched by his desire to take players on. For those who watch him regularly, he appears to have it all, and that has been rewarded with a place in his country’s World Cup squad.

The Brazilian may well enter Old Trafford as a world champion later this summer and the supporters will want that winning mentality and experience to rub off on his new teammates.

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