Bruno Fernandes credited Manchester United’s new-found team ethic for their derby victory over Manchester City.
Fernandes scored a controversial equaliser after Jack Grealish had come off the bench to put City in front before Marcus Rashford sealed a ninth consecutive victory for the Red Devils.
United are now only a point behind City on the back of their winning run and Fernandes feels their resurgence is down to a change in mentality among Erik ten Hag’s squad.
“We look like a team now,” Fernandes told BT Sport. “Some months ago you could see sometimes a team that was looking a bit for ourselves – but now you see a proper team that works hard for each other.”
However, Fernandes refused to get carried away with his side’s continued rise and immediately turned his attention towards Wednesday night’s trip to Crystal Palace.
“We have to look forward to the next game, because you can be closer (in the table) but if you don’t keep winning that will go,” he said.
“The mentality now is to be celebrating because it is a big win in the derby, but from tomorrow straight away ahead of Crystal Palace our focus has to be straight on that.”
Rashford, who scored in his ninth home game in a row, added: “Scoring the goal at the end and winning the game, that’s what we set out to do and that’s always the aim. This one is a little bit special and we’re pleased to have the three points at Old Trafford.”
United boss Erik ten Hag paid tribute to Rashford after the United striker looked to be struggling with an injury towards the end of the first half.
He told BT Sport: “Players have to be resilient – you get kicked in a game and obviously it happens and it hurts. But you have to keep going to get the right result, and deal with that painful moment even if it keeps being painful.
“That’s what he did today and he gets rewarded for it, and the team gets rewarded for it. In top football you have to suffer and sacrifice to get the right result.”
The Dutchman admitted he could see both sides of the decision to award Fernandes’ opening goal despite Rashford clearly being in an offside position.
“I can see that from the other side as well – of course it’s a confusing moment but when you follow the rules he didn’t touch the ball, he was not interfering and it’s a goal,” he added.
“We were happy at half-time but after half-time it changed, we were not proactive any more and just before I wanted to change it, they score. But then the spirit in the team is so huge, the belief is there that this game is 90 minutes, and we can fight back, and they believed they could turn it around.”
Asked in his press conference if his side are now in the title race, Ten Hag demurred.
“We have improved, that is obvious,” he said. “There is still a long way to go but we have a lot of aspects in our game we have to improve but we are progressing…
“The fans may dream but we are not, we have to keep our feet on the ground and face that our game has a lot to improve. It can’t happen that after half-time we are losing so much control in the game.”
For Rashford it was an eighth goal in seven appearances, but at one point it did not look as though he would start the second half. He fell heavily on his hip shortly before the break, prompting Ten Hag to tell Antony to warm up, but when the Brazilian came on at half-time it was to replace Anthony Martial.
“He knows that in football you have to suffer and sacrifice and have painful moments, especially a player like he is,” Ten Hag said of Rashford. “He is unstoppable and opponents will go tough against him but he keeps going and he got rewarded and the team got a reward.”
Read more: Man Utd 2-1 Man City: Rashford wins derby after Bruno goal controversy
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