Christmas has come early for Manchester United fans with the official announcement of four contract extensions for senior players this week.
United had always been expected to trigger the optional one-year clauses they had in deals for Diogo Dalot, Fred, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, though official confirmation of that is certainly .
The key reason for doing so is to ensure those players can’t negotiate with overseas teams when the January window opens next week, meaning United effectively have an extra year now to discuss long-term contract extensions with the quartet.
Read next: Ten Hag explains why United have extended four contracts
It isn’t all down to business, though, and Erik ten Hag’s comments after the announcement highlight the football reasons behind each of the contract extensions.
“We want to develop, we want to support those players and we want them to keep in our process,” Ten Hag stated. “We want to construct a team for the future, so for longer years, and those players have to be part of it.”
It is no surprise that Ten Hag would want to keep Rashford, Dalot and Shaw around given the key roles they have played for United this season, but most interesting is his continued faith in Fred.
The 29-year-old continues to divide opinion at United given that he is not the most technically gifted player at their disposal, but he is still loved by many for his work ethic and clear pride in wearing the shirt.
Fred has only played 642 minutes of football this season across 17 appearances, but he still represents a key part of Ten Hag’s side for the energetic and industrious performances he puts in midfield.
It is fair to say that while you know exactly what Fred is unable to offer in the midfield, you also know exactly what you will get in the form of reliable running output and a player who can press opponents when out of possession.
United’s tactical shift in the summer has lessened the need for the Brazil international on a regular basis, while he has also dropped further down the pecking order following the arrival of elite midfield options in Casemiro and Christian Eriksen.
Yet you only have to look at his inclusion at the recent World Cup to realise that he still brings key assets to the table, not only with his unglamorous approach on the pitch but also with the positivity he brings to the dressing room.
In the modern world of Ultimate Team and fantasy football, it is so easy to presume that the best individual talents make for the best team, but there is so much more at play when it comes to building a successful side.
Having players who can win a match on their own certainly gives you an upper hand in football, but you will be a more consistent winning side if you are a happy, cohesive unit packed with different personalities.
This is what keeps Fred valuable to the side, even under Ten Hag. He brings unquantifiable harmony to the side and is happy to occupy a squad role for the greater benefit of the team.
Signing those top players in the summer was only possible because they still had hard-working team players in the squad—those who will put in a shift when needed and who will not kick up a fuss when they are overlooked.
“I know I’m not the best player, not the most technical, but I give my blood and my life every time I’m on the pitch,” he admitted to TNT Sport back in February. “As we say in Brazil, I carry the piano for the artists to play.”
Although the piano has not always been in tune, Fred has been there for both club and country to do the dirty work, and he will hopefully continue to do so in the years ahead.