Football News

Man Utd legends back Erik ten Hag as Bruno Fernandes’ importance highlighted in recent defeats

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 11:00, 13 May 2024

Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney believe Erik ten Hag should remain in charge of Manchester United despite worrying recent performances.

The Red Devils have now won one in eight Premier League games, and they are languishing in eighth place with two matches remaining.

United were beaten 1-0 by Arsenal at home last time out. They’ve lost nine matches at Old Trafford in all competitions this season and have never suffered ten home defeats in a single season before.

Ten Hag fielded a depleted team missing several key first-team players, including skipper Bruno Fernandes. With knowledge of a campaign where he’s not consistently had a fully available squad, former Man Utd skipper Keane and club record goalscorer Rooney feel the Dutchman still deserves time to turn United around.

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“I hope he’s given more time and they get to the summer, they can regroup and restructure the club, or whatever that might be,” Keane told Sky Sports.

“There’s huge problems at the club. But I hope he’s given a chance to get things right. Because last year there was some positives, we have to be honest with that. And they have an FA Cup final coming up, and if they manage to beat Man City, it’s going to be very, very difficult, but there’s huge challenges he’s facing, and he’s under huge pressure.”

Rooney was also of the same opinion; but agreed there are chances of Ten Hag being sacked: “I personally hope they do give them time. Because I think there’s a lot of problems. Recruitment is massive, and it hasn’t been good enough throughout the year.

“So I do think it takes time to do it right. But what we’ve seen before, I was part of [Man United’s team] in the FA Cup final, when we won in 2016 and Louis van Gaal lost the job so you never know.”

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As touched upon, Fernandes was missing. Man Utd lost both of their last two Premier League games, with him absent for both. Indeed, since the Portuguese international made his debut in the competition, the Red Devils have won 40% of their league games and averaged 1.3 points per game when he hasn’t started, compared to a 53% win rate and 1.8 points per game when he has been in their starting line up.

To say Fernandes is United’s most valuable player would be an understatement. Since belatedly joining from Sporting in January 2020, the midfielder has gone on to register 64 assists and score 79 goals across 230 appearances. He’s scored 52 goals since his top-flight debut in February 2020, more than any other Man Utd player during this period.

In what is another disappointing league campaign, Fernandes has been a bright spot. He’s registered seven goals and two assists in his last six matches. Furthermore, he’s created 108 chances in the Premier League this season, more than any other player. He’s the seventh player on record (since 2003-04) to create 100+ chances in consecutive seasons in the competition and the first since Kevin De Bruyne in 2017-18.

“He’s somebody who has absolutely banged in numbers – assists and goals. Creativity has been off the chart, comparable to anyone in that time since he’s been here,” former Man Utd defender Rio Ferdinand said earlier this year.

“De Bruyne will be up there with him numbers-wise. He’s had this impact at this club and he’s a terrific football player. When you look at his numbers alone, you can’t question what he’s been doing at this football club in a time of turmoil, when they’ve underachieved.

“No matter what you want to say about him, when the chips are down and confidence is low in the club, it takes a personality and character to keep wanting to get on the ball and take the responsibility.

“He’s one of the only ones that you can say every week, whether he produces a goal or assist or not, he still demands the ball. That’s character.”