Man United FC

Not Garnacho – Man Utd has new Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes pairing that may save Ten Hag’s job

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is banking on his new pairing of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes to come to the rescue.

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Ten Hag requires a repeat of Ronaldo and Fernandes’ stellar performances from Manchester United’s previous Champions League campaign to avoid an early exit from the group stage, which would further intensify the pressure on his job.

Manchester United returned to the Champions League after a year-long hiatus and found themselves in a challenging group.

UEFA drew Ten Hag’s team against the formidable Bayern Munich, who are on an unbeaten streak of 36 group-stage games, as well as Galatasaray and Copenhagen, both of which pose challenging away fixtures.

In their opening match against Bayern, United conceded four goals, resulting in a 4-3 loss. More alarmingly, they suffered a shocking 3-2 defeat to Galatasaray at Old Trafford last week.

This leaves United in a precarious situation, sitting at the bottom of the group with no points, while Bayern has six, Galatasaray has four, and Copenhagen has one.

In the 2021/22 Champions League group stage, United also displayed unconvincing performances. Despite winning only three of their matches, they managed to top Group F.

Their campaign began with a loss to BSC Young Boys, but late heroics from Ronaldo secured comeback wins at home against Villarreal and Atalanta, preventing a disaster.

Ronaldo once again came through with a crucial goal to secure a draw away at Atalanta, and he scored his sixth goal of the campaign in a victory at Villarreal.

Although United could only manage a draw against Young Boys at Old Trafford, they finished at the top of the group with 11 points, setting up a last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid, which ended in a narrow defeat.

Fernandes played a pivotal role in the campaign, providing more assists (seven) than any other player in the competition.

With Bayern’s impressive track record, winning Group A already appears unlikely. Nevertheless, Ten Hag is relying on his star players to prevent a drop into the Europa League or a premature exit from European competition.

Despite United’s disappointing opening defeats, two players have stepped up, emulating Ronaldo and Fernandes’ performances from 2021. Rasmus Hojlund has scored three goals in his first two Champions League appearances, and Marcus Rashford has contributed two assists.

The pair have formed a promising partnership in the early stages of the 20-year-old Dane’s United career. They must continue their strong performances in Europe to avoid an embarrassing scenario that would cast doubt on Ten Hag’s future as United’s manager.

Next up for the Red Devils is a crucial match against Copenhagen, which they must win. Following that, they face back-to-back away fixtures in the Danish capital and Istanbul to take on Galatasaray.

Ronaldo and Fernandes were instrumental in delaying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s eventual departure in 2021, and Hojlund and Rashford could play a similar role in preventing Ten Hag’s exit.

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