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Man Utd need to talk about Bruno! Fernandes’ form a concern despite Red Devils’ recent revival

Man Utd Bruno
When Manchester United were at their lowest ebb earlier in the season, they had to thank their lucky stars they could at least rely on the brilliance of Bruno Fernandes. It was the captain who pulled them out of a hole against Nottingham Forest, when they conceded two goals in the opening four minutes. The Portuguese set up Casemiro’s equaliser, earned the foul from which Forest captain Joe Worrall was sent off, and then bagged the winner from the penalty spot.

 

Fernandes was also pivotal to their narrow 1-0 win at Burnley, scoring a stupendous volley which halted a run of three successive defeats. And after facing fierce criticism from Roy Keane after the dire defeat by Manchester City and calls to be stripped of the captaincy, it was Fernandes who stepped up in stoppage-time at Craven Cottage, firing United to a much-needed victory at Fulham.

The midfielder was often made the scapegoat by pundits for United’s troubles due to his body language and his penchant for complaining to referees, but he was never the problem. However, a curious thing has happened in the last two months: United have made huge strides in 2024, winning six out of their last seven matches, but their revival has not been down to Fernandes. If anything, it has been in spite of him.

Fernandes Bruno Manchester United

No league goals in 13 games

That decisive strike against Fulham on November 4 was Fernandes’ last league goal for United. He has failed to strike in 13 matches since, while contributing just three assists.

He has scored in the FA Cup matches against Wigan and Newport County – one of which was a penalty – and in the Champions League at Galatasaray, but he has largely been on the margins of United’s best attacking moves of late.

Instead, Alejandro Garnacho has taken a step forward, notching five goals and three assists in the league since Fernandes’ last goal. Scott McTominay has also come to the fore, scoring four goals and adding an assist despite starting just four league games since December and having to make the most of substitute appearances.

Rasmus Hojlund has also been in the mood after his quiet start to life with United, becoming the youngest-ever player to score in six consecutive Premier League games.

In his favourite position

And the worrying thing about Fernandes’ dip in goalscoring statistics is that he is now playing in his favoured position as a No.10, where he should be at the heart of United’s best moves. He has also played more minutes than any outfield player, only missing the match with Liverpool at Anfield as he was suspended.

The injury to Casemiro had left him with more defensive duties, but the Brazilian returned to action in late January, forming a solid double pivot with Kobbie Mainoo which has given United more stability in midfield and a solid platform for Fernandes to weave his magic. He has been unable to do so.

Wasting chance after chance

It is not for want of trying, as the midfielder has fired off 14 shots in his last five Premier League outings, but he has only hit the target three times. He is also carving out plenty of opportunities for his team-mates.

Fernandes ranks third in the Premier League for chances created per match, only trailing James Maddison and Martin Odegaard. But he ranks fourth when it comes to wasting chances, sitting behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nicolas Jackson and Darwin Nunez.

Fernandes has an expected goals total of six per this season, but has only managed to score three times, one of which was the penalty against Forest.

Alarming drop off

Fernandes’ struggles are even more alarming when you contrast his low numbers with the way he began his career with United. The midfielder posted a stunning eight league goals and seven assists in his first 14 matches after his move from Sporting CP in January 2020, dragging United to finish third as they gained more points than anyone else in the league following his signing.

Fernandes followed his debut season with even better numbers in his second, scoring 18 times and providing 11 assists. His contributions started to fall when Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club, but he still scored 10 times in the 2021-22 season and eight times last season, his lowest tally for United.

He is now on track for his lowest scoring season yet, and urgently needs to build on his measly three goals so far.