Robin van Persie feels Fred is hindering Harry Maguire and Manchester United by not sticking to his position.
The Brazilian has started all four of United’s previous matches – three of which have been as a deep-lying midfielder.
Fred was on form against Red Bull Leipzig last week in a slightly more advanced role, and won the ball back in the lead up to Mason Greenwood’s opening goal.
However, United faltered again at the weekend with Fred in a deeper position as the sole protection in front of the back four, which is where van Persie has spotted an issue.
Speaking to BT Sport before United’s clash against Istanbul Basaksehir, the former Red Devils striker said: “Everyone is talking about Maguire being fantastic on the ball, so far he’s not been fantastic on the ball going forward, with his passing.
“But that’s not only down to him. Before the show I talked with Owen [Hargreaves] about the positioning of the team overall and in some situations the team is not well positioned.
“You see Fred coming to take the ball from centre-back, he should not do that. Maguire should do that.
“He can do that forward pass. He should player higher up the pitch, where it is more difficult to play, but it gives everyone more options.”
Fred was not the only culprit, with van Persie adding: “The forward players should play as high as possible and find spaces in that area and not drop too deep.
“You see it’s not clicking because the positioning of the players is not right most of the time.”
United have been flicking between several formations so far this season, operating a diamond-shaped midfield in their last two fixtures.
Nemanja Matic was the anchor in United’s midfield against Leipzig, before Fred moved back there to make room for Scott McTominay in the Arsenal clash.
And while van Persie’s former teammate Paul Scholes concedes the inclusion of two defence-minded players in each lineup has made United more solid, he feels they are now lacking in ability to link play going forward.
What is United’s best formation and lineup? Have your say below.© REUTERS Fred has been criticised for dropping too deep to get on the ball
“I think it’s been very confusing since the start of the season, very inconsistent,” Scholes said. “I think the problem goes back to the Tottenham game. That frightened the team, conceding those six goals.
“Then they brought the two midfield players in who their job really was to protect the back two centre-backs. And it worked.
“It’s more like counter attacking football, playing like the away team at home. And it worked for them. But you’re struggling now to get the balance to attack.
“The two midfield players have become too defensive and they’re struggling to get the players on the ball.
“The two that have been playing have really struggled to get the ball into the best players. The likes of Fernandes, Pogba, Martial, Rashford. They’ve really struggled to contribute going forward.”
Scholes added: “If you’re a central midfielder for Manchester United you should be able to play that ball over the top. I’m not sure if Fred is. He might be.”