Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag hails Bruno Fernandes

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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag says Bruno Fernandes' match-winning display against Aston Villa highlighted just how "crazy" the recent debate about his captaincy was. The Red Devils strengthened their grip on a Champions League spot on Sunday, when the 28-year-old's first-half strike proved enough to seal a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. It was the latest in a long line of impressive displays by Fernandes, who somehow recovered from sustaining an ankle complaint in last Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton to play on Thursday. Ten Hag heaped praised on the Portugal international after that 2-2 draw at Tottenham, calling him an "inspiration" and an example team-mates must follow. The United boss offered similarly fulsome praise on Sunday and pointed out how laughable talk about his suitability for the captaincy was following the 7-0 loss at Liverpool. Asked what it says about Fernandes' resilience to be playing like he is a week on from that ankle knock, Ten Hag said: "A lot. I emphasise it all on Thursday in London.

"He's so tough. A couple of weeks ago there was questions about his captaincy. It's crazy because he's such a big leader, by example. "He gives so much energy to the team besides his smartness. "But also his determination, his passion and his resilience, so I think we as a team are so happy. "We need such players if you want to win games, if you want to win trophies." Ten Hag says "it's a pleasure to work with players like" Fernandes, who skippered the side again with Harry Maguire on the bench and fired United to a victory that keeps them well placed for Champions League qualification. "We have to keep going from game to game, but I think this is a brilliant week for us," the Dutchman said. "When you're in the semi-final in a tough game against a good opponent (Brighton) as we have seen in the week, we played a very good game and get through to the final. "Then Tottenham, in first half we played very well and today we play in two halves, I think, an impressive game, so big credit to the team."

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