Ten Hag and Rashford defend Fernandes after Liverpool display
Erik ten Hag labelled Bruno Fernandes "an inspiration" as the Manchester United manager leapt to the defence of his vice-captain after attracting criticism in the wake of Sunday's thrashing by Liverpool.
The Portuguese midfielder was chastised for his performance and attitude during United's humiliating 7-0 defeat at Anfield, with critics suggesting he should lose the armband, which he wears in the absence of out-of-favour club captain Harry Maguire.
However, Ten Hag dismissed those suggestions and is optimistic his on-field captain will respond well to the weekend's hardships.
"Everyone has to learn, I have to learn, he will learn as well because he's intelligent," the Dutch manager said at a press conference ahead of his side's Europa League first-leg fixture against Real Betis.
"He's an inspiration for the whole team but no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. I'm really happy to have Bruno in the team and really happy that if Harry Maguire isn't on the pitch then Bruno is the captain.
"He's been playing a brilliant season, he has a really important role for why we are in the position we are because he's giving energy to the team, running a lot at the highest intensity, but also in the right way, right direction, and he's pointing and coaching players."
Marcus Rashford seconded his manager's thoughts and threw his full support behind Fernandes, whom he believes has been invaluable since joining from Sporting CP in 2020.
He said: "I love playing with Bruno, as you can imagine. I think, for a forward like me, he's a perfect player to play with.
"He's been a good leader for us even when not captain, which is always a good sign. He's helped others become better leaders.
"Nobody's perfect and sometimes you want to win so bad that you end up doing things that are a little out of character.
"I 100 per cent support Bruno and I'm behind him, and I think as a team we have to support him because he's a fantastic player and as the boss said, we wouldn't be in the position that we're in if he wasn't playing games for us."
The Red Devils host Betis on Thursday. The Spanish side – coached by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini – are fifth in La Liga.