Bruno Fernandes praised Fred and Scott McTominay for their “very significant” roles in Manchester United’s thrilling 4-2 win over Leeds on Sunday.
United survived a second-half scare at Elland Road to earn a crucial three points in the race for a top-four Premier League finish and potential Champions League qualification.
For the Red Devils, Harry Maguire headed in the first, their first goal from a corner all season, before Fernandes himself nodded in a second just before halftime.
Leeds came back with two goals in a minute after the break, as Rodrigo’s mishit cross soared past David De Gea, before replacement Raphinha touched in a stunning equalizer.
With the game deteriorating, Ralf Rangnick made a double substitution, exchanging Paul Pogba for Fred and Jesse Lingard for Anthony Elanga in the goal of turning the tide in United’s favor.
And the German substitutes did not disappoint.
After Fred restored United’s advantage, Elanga slipped under Illan Meslier to seal all three points after some nice work from Fernandes.
Fernandes remarked after the game that both Fred and his fellow midfielder McTominay are crucial to United’s cause.
“Obviously, Fred is a hardworking player, and he is the type of guy that does not get a lot of media (attention) because he works hard and recovers a lot of balls,” the Portuguese playmaker told MUTV.
“He and Scotty (McTominay) are two key players for us in a variety of games. I am overjoyed for him, as well as for Anthony, who earned his aim.”
While Fred received much of the attention for his outstanding cameo, McTominay put in a valiant performance in a game contested in a tough environment on a sodden Elland Road pitch.
United’s midfield has been heavily criticized in recent years, but the pair’s impactful performances helped to silence their critics.
The meeting on Sunday was another high-scoring affair between the two rivals, with the opposite fixture at Old Trafford ending 5-1 – a match in which Fred found himself on the scoresheet once more.
This one appeared to be heading in the same direction for United, but Rodrigo’s errant cross looped over De Gea and flipped the game on its head.
Fernandes admitted that his team was complacent early in the second quarter when a Leeds riposte set off a chaotic collapse.
“That was most likely the issue for us,” he added. “We think we’re in a wonderful situation, then we start to play sloppy on the passes, under pressure, and they get away with two goals.”
The victory was essential for United as they sought to capitalize on West Ham’s Saturday slip-up against Newcastle in the race for a top-four finish.
Rangnick’s team now sits four points ahead of the Hammers in the table, however Arsenal and Tottenham remain in the race and both have three games in hand on United.