At Manchester United’s open training session yesterday, Fred was caught dawdling on the ball during an eight-vs-seven drill.
His hurried pass was intercepted by United’s first ever South Asian player, Zidane Iqbal, who preceded to put the Brazilian on the floor as he dribbled past him and slotted into the net.
At half time against Liverpool, Iqbal took to the field as Fred went off, and the youngster was in energetic spirits as soon as the whistle blew.
A quiet fifteen minutes turned noisy when Liverpool brought the cavalry on, with Mohammed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Darwin Nunez among the oncoming substitutes.
United’s young midfield unit could easily have been overawed, but that did not happen.
Along with midfield partner Charlie Savage, Iqbal did well in screening the defence against an onslaught of raking passes as Fabinho, Andy Robertson and Thiago Alacantra attempted to find Nunez in the channels.
However, as with the open training session, it was on the ball that Iqbal shone.
A clever shimmy to beat Fabinho was among the tricks, and a few of his feints were somewhat reminiscent of a certain Dutchman who may soon be a teammate.
Perhaps taking a cue, Charlie Savage produced a roulette against Salah on the edge of his own area and it is clear that the two young men have worked well together through the ranks as they held their own against players vastly more experienced than themselves.
Iqbal’s passing was also positive and, but for a very early run from Anthony Elanga which drew an offside flag, the Iraqi probably should have had an assist.
Liverpool may well have been expecting to roll over United’s youngsters in the second half, but there was no real threat of that, as they struggled to get create any inroads against a Manchester United side that was too strong in midfield to be played through.
That last phrase is not something that has often been said of the Red Devils in recent times.