Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Erik ten Hag comes down heavy on Bruno Fernandes debate, with Man Utd attacker having ‘massive’ unseen impact 

Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag and attacker Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes may be struggling to rack up the eye-catching stats, though Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag has highlighted two key areas in which he’s excelling.

The Portuguese playmaker’s early days at Manchester United were truly a sight to behold. Bruno Fernandes racked up 44 goals contributions across his firs1 51 league matches as a Red Devil. However, since the beginning of last season, his form in the final third has dipped dramatically.

Indeed, in the 45 matches since then, Fernandes has just 18 goal contributions to his name.

While those returns are far from a disaster, they do represent a significant drop-off from what United were accustomed to seeing.

One theory often touted is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo has blunted Fernandes’ impact. Whether that’s true or not is open to debate, though Ronaldo has relieved Fernandes of his penalty-taking duties at least.

Fernandes is operating primarily at No 10 for Ten Hag. The summer arrival of Christian Eriksen was expected to see competition for that role increase, though the classy Dane has been deployed deeper in the double pivot.

talkSPORT pundit Danny Murphy was one vocal critic of playing both playmakers in the same eleven.

In his mind, United wouldn’t have enough energy and endeavour on the defensive side of the game when both were on the pitch.

Bruno Fernandes excelling in two categories, labouring in others

However, via the Manchester Evening News, Ten Hag termed Fernandes “magnificent” in defensive transitions.

In real terms, that means Fernandes is quick to react when United lose possession and is impacting opposition ball carriers when they try to counter.

Ten Hag also heralded Fernandes for the leadership qualities he has displayed. With skipper Harry Maguire both injured and out of favour, vice-captain Fernandes continues to don the armband.

But despite the praise, Ten Hag did admit Fernandes must do more in the goals and assists categories. The 28-year-old has twice as many yellow cards (four) as he does goal contributions in the league this year (two).

“Bruno is playing really well this season,” Ten Hag said. “In that fact, he can produce more goals and assists.

“But I think he is often in the line of the goal and he is playing I think a massive role in a lot of moments of football for us, in build-up and in creativity and attacking, movement but also transition, both sides.

“In defensive transition, he is magnificent, he is doing a really good job so I am really happy with his performance.

“[Leadership] is also one of the things; he is really an example with the way he transfers the play for us, how he motivates those around him, he is the example with the energy he gives to the team.

“That is really good and I’m happy with his performances and I know his goals and assists will come.”

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