Fernandes defends Ronaldo influence at Man Utd and hails Ten Hag

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Bruno Fernandes insists Cristiano Ronaldo was not the reason Manchester United struggled last season, while he expects the "strict" Erik ten Hag to deliver success at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave United, less than a year after returning to the club, and is yet to report for training with Ten Hag's squad after missing three pre-season friendlies due to family reasons.

Fernandes claimed earlier in the week that he had no knowledge of Ronaldo's future intentions but called for respect for whatever his Portugal compatriot decides to do.

Ten Hag has already made it clear that Ronaldo remains an integral part of his plans after the 37-year-old top-scored with 24 goals in all competitions for United last term.

As United prepare to face Aston Villa in their next pre-season friendly on Saturday, Fernandes again leapt to the defence of the forward, refusing to blame him for the Red Devils' issues last term.

Asked whether Ronaldo's presence caused a change in style and problems for United, Fernandes told Sky Sports: "No I don't think so.

"I am there to serve my strikers and I think we had an amazing start to the season. When Cristiano came in he scored two goals in his first game and I scored one and after that, I scored many goals playing with Cristiano.

"I think all of my goals I was playing alongside Cristiano, so I don't think that was the problem at all.

"I play with him for Portugal and that will never be the problem because good players can fit together at any time at any point."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals for Manchester United last season
Cristiano Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals for Manchester United last season

Whether Ten Hag has Ronaldo to call upon in the upcoming campaign or not, Fernandes lauded the former Ajax coach's training methods as the Dutchman attempts to implement a new style of play at United.

"Nobody can get away with anything with him and the senior players have to play their part too, making sure that everyone is on the same page," he added.

"Everyone knows they have to be pushing to the same side and if not, they will be out of the team. That's a good thing because if you want to be successful as a team you have to be always in the same way.

"He's strict, he's tough, but at the same time, he's a nice and easy guy to chat to.

"The main thing is following what he wants because I think he has a straight line that he wants to have with the team and I want to follow that straight line because I think we can be successful that way.

"I think everyone will be happy at the end of the season if we can do everything he wants us to do."

Fernandes netted 28 times for United in all competitions in the 2020-21 season, the best return by a midfielder for a Premier League club in a single campaign, surpassing Frank Lampard's 27 for Chelsea in 2009-10.

The Portugal international failed to follow that up in the next campaign, managing 10 goals across all competitions, and Fernandes wants to prove his worth after signing a new five-year contract in March.

"Last season, as a team it was not successful so individually it's difficult to be successful," he added.

"I was trying in the same way to improve the team, but obviously, it was a difficult season for everyone and was tough to be successful individually because the results were not there.

"I know everyone is expecting so much from me because my first season was amazing and last season I only scored 10 goals and 14 assists. I know I can do much better than that.

"So for me, it's about following the rules [Ten Hag] wants, following his demands and my game will come naturally. The main thing for me is that the team is successful."

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