Much like when England didn’t know how to play the creative forces of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes in the midfield without sacrificing a lot defensively, multiple pundits have said that United need to drop Fernandes to help balance the midfield and also allow Edinson Cavani to come in to support Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba have come under fire from pundits in recent weeks for their apparent lack of ability to play together, with Fernandes positioning and stray passing coming into question in particular
Former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino said of the situation; ” It is the same situation that Portugal had at the European Championship: Ronaldo and Fernandes do not work in the same side.
“The team becomes too easy to play against as a consequence, and Fernandes is the only movable object.
“[Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer has the perfect solution in Edinson Cavani. At Paris Saint-Germain, he did the same dirty work for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe that Benzema did for Ronaldo at Real.
“Jesse Lingard is an option too. Lingard is very underrated for his ability to regain the ball, and that’s why Solskjaer has kept him.”
Cascarino then goes on to comment how Fernandes may be better technically but Lingard does the ‘dirty work’ that the team and Ronaldo need to thrive.
And in the 2019/20 season (the last season in which Lingard really played a decent amount of games for United), Lingard had the most final third pressures per 90 minutes played, with nine a game. This is something the team has needed in the past few games for sure but is it worth being at the expense of Fernandes.
Fernandes has been United’s best player since he joined the club in January 2020. He is a great creative midfield with an eye for goal, but his creativity comes at the cost of what we can call pass completion statistics, and this is what he has been criticised for as of late.
However, Fernandes knows this, and in his post-match interview after the team’s 3-2 win against Atalanta, where he assisted two goals, he clarified his game.
He said; “You have to take a risk. Maybe not as many as I did in 1st half when I missed many passes. Sometimes I know the pass is difficult or chance to get in not quite there but I want to respect my strikers and try to make them score.”
And that’s the thing, Fernandes is there to try and make that last pass that will play in the striker and give them a chance of scoring, much like he did for Marcus Rashford for United’s first goal. If no one was there to make those passes, United would never be able to break the lines and get a player one on one with the keeper.
Many fans thought he was poor in the first half but he hit back at this criticism saying; “I don’t think we played poor in the first half. We made mistakes when they scored. But we created chances. I know people expect a lot because we are a big club, to perform at the same level every half, but sometimes the other team causes you problems.”
Overall the game against Atalanta was another similar tale to many of the results under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United were poor in the initial stages only to find something within themselves and come back and win, due to outstanding talent and great linkups between them.
But the real test is just beginning, with games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in the Premier League and an away fixture back against Atalanta who will have a point to prove, United will need to be at their best to secure a result and I’m sure if they do Fernandes will be at the heart of it.