Fred interview: Brazilian midfielder on hitting his stride at Manchester United and staring down racism in football

Andy Mitten talks to the midfielder after his superb display in the Manchester derby - a match which was also blighted by racist abuse

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Manchester United’s midfielder Fred walked out of the dressing room after Saturday’s 2-1 derby victory over Manchester City with a big smile on his face.

For the second time in four days, United had defeated a top Premier League side, the first managed by Jose Mourinho in Tottenham Hotspur, the second Pep Guardiola.

For the second time in four days, Fred was one of the best players on the pitch – though it wasn’t without incident.

“Good, good game, good win for us,” said the Brazilian midfielder, who signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018 for £52 million (Dh251m). “I’m so very happy with our performance today. It’s now a sequence of games I am playing well. I’m very happy about this. We must carry on playing like this.”

Standard quotes from a man delighted to be coming into his own after a very difficult start to his career in England. He has started the last nine Premier League games in the absence of the injured Paul Pogba. He has played 90 minutes in every one of them.

He has not been a standout performer in each game and he is not short of critics. He needs to be confident and when he is mistakes are fewer, but with Fred playing alongside Scott McTominay, United are starting to compete and dominate in midfield - an area where they were struggling in previous matches.

Unfortunately, Fred was hit by lighters thrown from Manchester City supporters during the second half when he went to take a corner. He was also subjected to racist abuse at the same time from a fan in the same section. Manchester City immediately condemned those actions.

“It’s something difficult,” Fred said. “We just want to play football, to do the best for our team and our supporters. It’s the same for both teams. You shouldn’t have to worry about what is happening outside the pitch but someone threw something at me and it hit me.”

Manchester United's Fred reacts after objects are thrown at him during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 7, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

And the racist fan? “It is unfortunate that this happened," Fred said. "It also happened to me in Ukraine with some friends of mine. I only saw it after the game today. It’s sad. Skin colour should not matter. But we have to raise our heads, we cannot give them attention when there is so much beauty to see.”

United were again excellent and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reserved special praise for Fred and his ability to match up against City's Kevin de Bruyne.

“Arguably man of the match today,” Solskjaer said. “He took the ball, he’s playing against Kevin de Bruyne, probably the best player in the league and I thought he was excellent.

“It’s great to see it, the boy deserves it. But when you get a run, and keep the team together, Scott and Fred have made a great partnership.”

Fred agrees that his partnership with McTominay is thriving.

“We’re playing well together, doing very good games,” he said. “It’s nice to play with him, and we can help Man United to win. Today was an important win for us. We’re all very happy, this win cheers us up. I’m sure from now we can rise up the table, but we have to focus and try to win all the games, not just the big ones.”

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The Manchester derby was only United’s second away win of the season in the league, and one the 3,000 travelling fans split over three tiers enjoyed and savoured.

“The support was fantastic,” Fred said. “They make us stronger. We hope they carry on giving us their support, its very important for us.”

It was the first time this season that United have won consecutive league games. They’re playing fast, attacking football and it’s proving very effective against the best teams.

“We know how to explore this, it’s a very fast team,” said Fred, who is from Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third biggest city. “The fastest I have played in. It’s exciting. We can make the ball to get to [Marcus] Rashford, Antony [Martial], DJ (Daniel James) and then they can score.

"They can get even faster on the counterattack if I can get them the ball quicker. This is my goal, make the ball to get there even quicker. We did that in the first half, that’s where we won the game.”

Fred had a choice over joining United or City. “I chose United,” he said. “I made the right decision.”