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Fernandes flaws in full view as frustrating campaign continues
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Dan Fitch
Bruno Fernandes was named as the Manchester United captain last summer
Bruno Fernandes was named as the Manchester United captain last summer

Bruno Fernandes is a man under pressure at Manchester United.

The club captain has only scored three goals in the Premier League this season, contributing to a disappointing campaign for Erik ten Hag's side.

Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Fulham saw the Portuguese international criticised by the Red Devils' own fans on social media.

Ahead of Manchester United's FA Cup trip to Nottingham Forest tonight, we put Fernandes under the spotlight.

Fulham fury

Back in July, Ten Hag explained why he had made Fernandes the Manchester United captain.

The Dutch boss said: "A good team is always covering areas as leaders, team players, multi-functional players, specialists, individualists.

"But you need some leaders in the team, on the pitch, who are guiding the team, who are building the team, who are controlling the quality of the performance.

"And one has to wear the band and we chose, I chose, Bruno. Because he is a great inspiration. He is the example."

It would be hard to argue that Fernandes behaved like an inspirational figure on Saturday, however.

With the score at 1-1 and with United pushing for a winning goal, the midfielder fired in a shot, making slight contact with Fulham's Sasa Lukic as he released his effort.

Fernandes fell to the ground writhing in pain, while his team-mates continued to try and score a winner.

When it became apparent that he would not receive a free-kick, the skipper sprung back to his feet and demanded the ball.

In the aftermath of the 2-1 loss, Fernandes then berated the referee Michael Oliver.

Consistency drops

Fernandes' behaviour against Fulham highlighted why he was a controversial choice as captain.

Many Red Devils fans took to social media to lament his moments of play-acting and petulance, questioning his suitability for the role.

Bruno Fernandes has had an underwhelming personal campaign
Bruno Fernandes has had an underwhelming personal campaign

There were however, some compelling arguments behind Ten Hag giving the armband to the 29-year-old playmaker.

He clearly cares in a way that some of his team-mates do not — even if he often expresses it in a manner ill-befitting of a leader.

Fernandes is a hard worker and is nearly always available. Since signing for United in 2020, he has also been their most consistent performer.

Yet though he may have been chosen as captain because of that form, his level of performances have dropped in his first season leading the side.

The former Sporting Lisbon star has only contributed seven goals and seven assists in 34 games and seems set for his least productive campaign since moving to Old Trafford.

Productivity waning

It is fair to say Fernandes' reduced productivity has been somewhat caused by the decline of Ten Hag's team as a whole.

No player in the Premier League ranks higher than Fernandes for shot-creating actions this term, suggesting his assist numbers have been impacted by poor finishing.

Meanwhile, a personal lack of goals seems in part caused by him operating in slightly deeper areas.

Yet for all of his qualities, there are downsides to Fernandes.

He is only really suited to playing as a No10, restricting Ten Hag's options in terms of formation.

His penchant for playing high-risk passes can produce rewards but is not always suitable for a team looking to dominate possession.

Previously, Fernandes' weaknesses have been overlooked because of his high output.

But we may be entering a phase of the 29-year-old's career where we see what happens when that productivity wanes.


Manchester UnitedPremier LeagueFA CupBruno Fernandes
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