Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks Fred was “very sensible” in the second half against Paris Saint-Germain despite being sent off for a second bookable offence.
Having started Champions League Group H in such stunning fashion, they end it needing to avoid defeat at last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig next week to secure progress to the knockout phase.
United would have sealed their place in the last 16 with a match to spare had they got a point against PSG on Wednesday – something they were on course for after Marcus Rashford’s deflected strike cancelled out Neymar’s opener.
But Fred’s sending off moments after Marquinhos put the visitors back ahead left the hosts with a mountain to climb and Neymar turned home in stoppage time to complete a 3-1 win at an empty Old Trafford.
United, PSG and Leipzig are all level on nine points heading into the final round of fixtures after a frenetic encounter in which Solskjaer’s decision to keep on Fred proved costly.
The Brazil midfielder looked set to receive a red card in the first half for pushing his head into that of Leandro Paredes, but referee Daniele Orsato only showed him a yellow card despite reviewing the replay.
Fred was then fortunate to avoid picking up a second booking in a first-half challenge with Paredes but was eventually given his marching orders in the second period – albeit on this occasion he could count himself unlucky.
“We spoke to him at half-time – and be sensible – and I thought he was. I thought he played really well,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“I thought he was very, very sensible in the second half and he covers the ground, he gets up to men without trying to tackle. The ball that he actually gets a yellow card for though, the tackle, that’s nowhere near a foul. So, if you see that again, that’s a mistake by the referee.
“But that’s also human error, it’s allowed. You can’t, I can’t sit there and complain about that now. I thought Fred was unlucky there, but he was probably lucky enough to come off for the first half.”