Manchester United’s season-opening match against Leeds United hinted at an exciting season ahead. United cruised to a 5-1 victory at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat-trick and Paul Pogba contributing four assists.
It was an enthralling match that highlighted United’s world-class players at their finest. Individuals engineered United’s best performance of the season – that match against Leeds – an irony that would eventually prove to be this team’s doom as outcomes quickly unraveled. As the weeks passed, there would be little togetherness on the field.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had no choice but to push his team to play more expansively after the additions of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo. The players tried to fulfill that passion, but they were poorly coached and strategically neglected, sealing Solskjaer’s doom. United’s season has never quite recovered from its dismal start.
This season has been littered with misfortunes, and United’s players have justifiably faced a barrage of criticism in the aftermath of each setback. This season, United has matched its worst drought without a trophy in 40 years, and there’s nowhere to hide at the club. Even the most impenetrable players at United are feeling the strain, including Fernandes.
The Stretford End chanting ‘BRUNO! BRUNO! BRUNO!’ as Fernandes went off the pitch with the match ball after the season’s first game seems like a distant memory now. After signing for United in January 2020, Fernandes made an immediate impact, and he’s been truly world-class since then, but it doesn’t mean he’ll be blameless this season.
Gary Neville and Roy Keane have recently criticized Fernandes, which would have been inconceivable a year ago.
While David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the outstanding players for United in an otherwise disappointing season, Fernandes has enjoyed a solid season on his own. Although his record of nine goals and 14 assists in 37 appearances suggests there should be no concerns, some matchgoers are growing impatient with Fernandes.
The enormous passion for Fernandes from those identical supporters can still be felt at Old Trafford. For the past two seasons, Fernandes has been United’s finest player. He’s evolved into a maverick-like figure who comes through when his team needs him the most. He was totally talismanic, and he was the catalyst for United’s false growth (Europa League final and finishing runners-up in the Premier League).
However, he appears to have been limited by Ralf Rangnick’s switch to a 4-3-3 formation at United. Fernandes no longer has complete control over the No.10 role in which he won fans’ hearts and minds. Instead, he’s being asked to be more disciplined.
Manchester City and Liverpool have demonstrated the importance of a balanced midfield three, something United sadly lacks. In a midfield three, Fernandes hasn’t been the same performer, and his wastefulness in possession has become a concern. Fernandes has also had to deal with a heavier defensive load. Fernandes’ body language has shown his feelings on the subject.
A section of Fernandes’ admirers have been irritated by his petulance and proclivity for rolling around on the floor. When United is winning, those traits are overlooked, but they haven’t been, and fans’ frustration has grown with each terrible outcome.
Fernandes is meant to be the player who will deliver on the greatest stage for United. He’s been largely unnoticed in this season’s big games – as has most of the squad – and was frequently seen rolling around or moaning to the referee.
This could be due to Fernandes’ dissatisfaction with his diminished impact on games. Since his arrival, the midfielder has been one of the finest players in the Premier League, so it would be natural for him to vent his frustrations on the pitch now that he is facing hardship. The good news is that you’d have to be a fool to doubt Fernandes’ ability to overcome adversity.
Fernandes will gain from playing for a good coach, something he hasn’t had in Manchester. Fernandes needs to be shown how to play in a three-man midfield before he can return to becoming the player that United supporters love.
Fernandes’ petulance has become a problem at the moment, and he isn’t himself in the three-man midfield. Both of these problems are readily remedied, and Fernandes should be back to his instrumental best next season.