Man Utd stars are telling Fernandes to shut up but they and ‘injury crisis’ can’t keep him down
Even the mild-mannered Jadon Sancho can find Bruno Fernandes a little tiresome, but the Man Utd irritant will never change and he is keeping them on track.
“The thing people say about how I wave my arms at my team-mates. That has never happened. That is completely a lie,” Bruno Fernandes once said, without even a flicker of sarcasm.
There were a few qualifiers forthcoming. “I can be using my arms to ask for the ball and to tell them something about where to move the ball. But never do I talk to them in a bad way,” he said, adding: “Yes, I can shout at someone if they do not pass the ball when he has to do it, or if he does not take the decision in the best way, or if he goes two-v-one and does not pass the ball to his team-mate. Then it is normal to be angry at him.”
Long story short: Bruno Fernandes might wave his arms around a bit, but it’ll be someone else’s fault. And Jadon Sancho won’t have been the first teammate to request that he keeps more of a lid on it.
— FtyVdz (@FtyVdz) April 30, 2023
In the first half at Old Trafford on Sunday came one of those precious few instances. Christian Eriksen occupied a space in the inside-left channel and had an unmarked Fernandes – fresh from his ‘injury crisis’ – calling for the square pass to his right. The arms flew up; the fury was real. Tyrell Malacia received the ball instead, returning it almost immediately, only for Eriksen to drift a hopeful, searching pass out for a goal kick.
The main regret was that Fernandes’ full reaction was not caught by the cameras, which were focused on the aimlessly trickling out of play. But Eriksen was playing 4D chess during a game of Checkers if what followed was anything to go by.
Emi Martinez lumped the ball towards the halfway line, only for Casemiro to devour Emiliano Buendia in an aerial battle. Marcus Rashford had spent the entire half playing on the shoulder of a high Aston Villa defensive line and he reacted quickest, forcing a save from Martinez. The World Cup-winning goalkeeper might have felt as though he had pushed it to a sufficiently safe area, but the tireless Fernandez was on hand to force it in through a deflection off Alex Moreno.
That “absolute disaster” midfield had made contributions of varying degrees to a crucial goal in the race for European qualification. And in seeing out the victory over Aston Villa, Man Utd have won 16, drawn four and lost none of the 20 games Fernandes, Casemiro and Eriksen have started together.
Any home goal was always going to come from a Rashford run in behind; that tactic seemed to comprise Man Utd’s entire attacking plan at points – and that is no criticism. The Villa defence was deployed daringly high, requiring crushing levels of concentration from Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa in particular.
It was the latter who had stepped slightly too deep to play Rashford onside for the goal, but Mings did not manage to navigate that tightrope flawlessly either. Martinez had to vacate his area more than once to combat the approach and the Villa midfield was never quick enough to thwart it at the source.
Villa had their moments in either half, David de Gea saving well from Alex Moreno and Victor Lindelof clearing Douglas Luiz’s effort off the line, but failed to score for the first time in a game under Unai Emery, whose Champions League charge was halted with only the second away defeat of his league reign.
The previous one came in February against Manchester City and this rubber match – Emery’s first two Villa games were a 3-1 win over Man Utd at Villa Park before a 4-2 League Cup defeat at Old Trafford in November – ended in a similarly hard-fought but ultimately deserved loss.
They will be happy to see the back of Fernandes, who has scored six of his 100 career league goals against Villa – the most he has against any opponent. The Portuguese’s numbers truly are remarkable: 118 Premier League appearances, 42 goals, 32 assists and 65 games since June. It must go some way to making all the moaning worth it.
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