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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Is Bruno Fernandes part of the Man United problem?

The waves are crashing overboard on the ship that is Manchester United right now, that much is no secret to anybody.

Seas are getting rougher and, at this precise moment, kinder elements do not appear to be on the horizon.

Of the unhappy crew mates, Bruno Fernandes appears to be the one with the biggest axe to grind. The Portuguese talisman is far from happy.


Indeed, as reported by Sportsmail, Fernandes is growing frustrated by a lack of clear direction under boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff.

It would be fair to say a malaise has well and truly set in at Old Trafford and Fernandes would not be far wrong. United have looked directionless for some time, and there are no signs of a turning tide.

He went missing during the abject Old Trafford defeat to noisy neighbours Man City and former Red Gary Neville labelled him ‘too emotional’ in the aftermath. So, is Fernandes himself part of the problem?

Bruno Fernandes is growing tired of United’s situation and feels not enough direction is given

We only have to rewind 12 months to observe Fernandes at his scintillating, irrepressible best.

During the last campaign Fernandes was a candidate for Player of the Month after every passing four weeks, and naturally a hot favourite for PFA Player of the Year.

As United coasted into a second-placed finish behind rivals City, ahead of an injury-ravaged Liverpool, Fernandes was the driving force behind everything that was good and positive.

It would not be an exaggeration to say the former Sporting Lisbon man was on a upwards sky rocket trajectory ever since his arrival in January 2020.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on the brink of losing his job while stars like Fernandes are struggling

FERNANDES THIS SEASON SO FAR…  Premier League games – 11

Premier League goals – 4

Assists – 3

Champions League games – 4

Assists – 5

EFL Cup games – 1 

Fernandes may have signed for United just as fans were then barred from stadiums due to coronavirus restrictions and the many lockdown periods, but it did not matter.

He took to life in the Premier League like a duck to water and wasted little time in not only becoming United’s stand-out player, but also the most formidable star in the English game.

For as much as United may have had off-days, Fernandes was always there to provide a spark and help snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Now, however, the tables have turned.

United are down on their luck and Fernandes appears to have let the ongoing demise really permeate into him. The form has vanished and, right now, so have United’s chances.

The 27-year-old has four goals and three assists in the Premier League so far this season, at the time of writing. Those figures are by no means to be scoffed at, yet a player of Fernandes’ dizzying heights can, and has, regularly produced better.

More worryingly, the goals are seemingly drying up. What made Fernandes so devastatingly effective for United was his uncanny ability to find the back of the net, while also making everything else happen around him.

The United No 18 has not registered for his side since early September, when he slotted home in the 4-1 rout of Newcastle.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return should have helped Fernandes, but looks to have done the opposite

He is, however, still making things happen. Of Fernandes’ last six games for United in all competitions, he has notched four assists. United have won only two of these matches – one being the most narrow of late victories over Atalanta, and another the scalping of a toothless Tottenham who failed to have a single shot on target.

Fernandes is suffering from the downturn of the whole United squad, and so it comes as no surprise that he has flagged real concerns of direction and progression. 

United’s current situation means he is contributing less effectively as a result and, with him now entering his prime years as a European midfielder, it is only natural that Fernandes needs to start asking the big questions – for the sake of his own career.

The warning signs have been present though. At the tail end of last season United endured a wobble which dovetailed tellingly with Fernandes going quiet in matches; particularly against large-scale opposition.

Back in May Liverpool had rocked up at Old Trafford and taken a 4-2 victory, as United faded despite Fernandes himself opening the scoring just 10 minutes in.

Questions at the time were asked of Fernandes. Was he burning out just when United needed him most? Or, rather, was the heavy overreliance on him taking its toll?

Yet still, he provided four goals in the last 10 games of the campaign to cap off an impeccable season of 18 goals and 11 assists in 37 Premier League matches, with a further nine goals in Europe and a solo strike in the FA Cup.

United had done enough to tuck in safely into second place and end the season on a nice positive – albeit perhaps masked by the shortcomings and injury crisis of fellow top-four rivals. Title winners City had long since run away with proceedings.

The Portuguese talisman was one of many United players who failed to get anywhere near City

Yet any underlying issues were brushed over. Many fans and pundits alike shared the same strong opinion that United, and Fernandes particularly, would benefit from an exciting summer of bustling transfer window activity.

And indeed, said business was conducted at pace. United finally clinched the £75million signing of Jadon Sancho, before nabbing Raphael Varane from Real Madrid and then stunning the football world to bring Cristiano Ronaldo home.

Surely Fernandes, of all people, was licking his lips in anticipation? With such an array of talent flooding through the doors at United’s Carrington base, it would undoubtedly be a case of him no longer carrying the club by the scruff of the neck.

Right…? Well, not exactly.

Whether it is a result of no longer being the solo star man or realising that United still aren’t making any clear, defined progress despite such a star-studded squad – Fernandes just isn’t turning it on like he did. Perhaps it is a combination of both elements.

The arrival of compatriot and close friend Ronaldo should have boosted Fernandes tenfold, yet his game appears to have been compromised as a result. Sure, Fernandes now has one of the best goalscorers to ever play the game making runs in front of him, but this is a Ronaldo in the twilight of his career. 

It is also, rather importantly, still a Ronaldo who demands the limelight and the constant sacrifice of his team-mates around him. Remember those instinctive, off-the-cuff runs of Fernandes last season? We do appear to be seeing less of them.

Fernandes cuts a dejected figure as the weeks go by, but he must help United regain their form

If he felt like the main man last season, the same cannot be said for Fernandes now. United have got much better, on paper, yet the results say anything but.

Fernandes is completely justified in airing his dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, but the problems simply cannot vanish overnight. Right now he, like the cohort of his team-mates, is part of the problem and must work out how to become at least something of a solution.

Whether the writing really is on the wall for Solskjaer or not remains to be seen, but an already faltering season is running the very real risk of de-railing altogether.

Regardless of his current happiness levels at Old Trafford, Fernandes must return to the fore for the Red Devils and hold the trident once more. If not, the nine-point gap between United and the summit could start to look a whole lot uglier, very quickly.

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