John Barnes says he thinks Fred has been unfairly scapegoated at Manchester United and insists blame for the team's poor performances of late lies with their attackers.
The Liverpool icon named Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes as the four players causing United problems due to their reluctance to press opponents.
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick took charge of his first game on Sunday, adopting a high-press approach for United's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Barnes says the German's tactics demonstrated just how good Fred can be when the team is working as a unit.
"I’ve always liked Fred and he has not been the problem United, it’s been the other four strikers that have been playing, whatever combination of Ronaldo, Rashford, Fernandes and Greenwood," Barnes told BonusCodeBets.
"I feel sorry for Fred. Running and pressing is his game but he can’t do it by himself. The fact that other players were pressing with him [against Palace] meant that he was able to prove his worth.
"He did not do anything differently, he always presses but if he does it alone, it means he gets isolated alongside Scott McTominay … which is why Manchester United have been conceding goals and losing matches.
"Now that everyone else was doing it, we can see the value that Fred actually brings."
Fred has been something of a divisive figure since arriving at Old Trafford for £47 million in 2018.
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United pipped rivals Manchester City to the Brazilian's signature but some fans aren't convinced he's good enough, particularly when he's picked over the likes of Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek in midfield.
According to Barnes though, if United's forwards continue to work hard and press their opponents, Fred's doubters will start to change their tune.
"It doesn’t matter who you are, even Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, you cannot do what you do if the front three are not working hard to press and close down. That is why Liverpool are a much more balanced team," Barnes added.
"I have never had an issue with Fred and McTominay nor the defence because they need everyone in the team to be working hard and that is what they did against Crystal Palace."
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