Roma manager Paulo Fonseca has warned his side they need to snuff out the danger of two Manchester United stars in particular if they are to advance to the Europa League final.
United entertain the Italian outfit at Old Trafford in an intriguing semi-final first leg on Thursday night. Roma go into the game seventh in Serie A, while for United, they will hope it’s fourth time lucky in semi-finals for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Indeed the backdrop of the game saw Roma fans create a banner in reaction to an admission from Solskjaer about Roma. The United boss reacted to the furore in his pre-match presser on Wednesday.
If United are to progress, their main hopes will lie with their two star men in Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. The duo have both enjoyed another outstanding season, with Portuguese star Fernandes the favourite to win Footballer of the Year.
He had spells in Italy earlier in his career with Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria. However, Fonseca reckons it was not until his move to Sporting that saw Fernandes reach his true potential.
“Bruno played many years here in Italy and just when he returned to Portugal with Sporting, (is) where he had a great season,” Fonseca told ESPN.
“The people understood the real value from what he did at Sporting, it was amazing. And what he’s doing in Manchester is also amazing.
“He’s a player with a strong personality, he wants to win all the time. It’s true that he arrived a little late at Sporting but you can see he’s a player with big experience.
“I think it was very positive the years he had here in Italy. The football is really difficult for a midfielder like him.
“But he grew so much in Italy and he proved at Sporting he can play at the highest level. Like he’s proving now in Manchester.
“The main point is the character of Bruno. He’s a leader, he’s a fighter but he’s also a player with big quality and he’s very smart.
“I’m not surprised about what he’s doing at Manchester. When he arrived he immediately started to be an important player at Manchester United.
“He’s confirming this, he’s confirming the quality and at the moment he’s one of the main players of Manchester United.”
Fonseca talks up Rashford qualities
As well as highlighting the qualities of Fernandes, Fonseca also took the time to praise the skills of Rashford.
The United forward has 20 goals in each of his last two seasons and the Roma manager is all too aware of the danger to his side.
“They have amazing players who can decide in one situation one game and we have to pay attention to these individual situations of Manchester United,” Fonseca added.
“I think Rashford is an amazing, amazing player. He’s having a great, great season. But I think Man United as a whole team are strong.
“But I have to confess, we cannot think to go to Manchester to just defend. We have to have the ball because I don’t believe if you think just to defend near our box that we have a chance to beat Man United.
“We have to have courage to play against Man United, to have the ball, to have the initiative, to counter-attack, defending as fast and as long as possible from our box.
“I think it’s important not to allow Man United to go fast to attack and don’t allow them to arrive near to our box.”