During the first international break of the season, nobody at Manchester United needed to be reminded of just what Bruno Fernandes is capable of. The Portuguese sensation did, though, offer a five-star nudge.
With two goals and three assists in back-to-back Euro 2024 qualifying victories for his nation, the United playmaker was a bright spot as Portugal kept up their all-out effort to reach Germany the following summer. Since making his senior debut in 2017, he has accumulated 59 caps and 33 direct goal involvements.
However, a statistically outstanding player like Fernandes has an impact for both club and nation that goes beyond statistics. Erik ten Hag must refrain from sacrificing him in order to address a persistent issue because he is the centre of gravity for both teams.
In those games, Fernandes had four goals and four assists, and overall, the outcomes United achieved with his assistance were fruitful. Fernandes must ultimately remain (nearly) front and centre if Ten Hag and his team are to regain their offensive strength when they return to home and European duty.
After playing on the right against Real Sociedad in the previous campaign, Fernandes stated, “I play wherever the coach needs me to play. “I try my best to help the team and to be involved in a way that I can be helpful to the team, even though it’s not my position,” However, Fernandes in the No. 10 spot would be far more beneficial to his team.
Last season, Ten Hag used Fernandes when United needed to stabilise, make a sacrifice, or surprise their adversaries. He no longer needs to make the sacrifice; that responsibility now belongs to a different colleague.
Ten Hag is considering what to do in a situation that former managers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick were also unable to resolve. United is missing Antony after the Brazilian was placed on leave to address allegations of abuse, and the club may not offer a pathway back into the fold for Jadon Sancho either.
United is in a rush to put their right-side Plan C together because they have big games against Brighton and Bayern Munich coming up. The danger is not worth it for their current Plan B with Fernandes.
The former Sporting Lisbon player is far more efficient from central areas, as he emphasised against Slovakia and Luxembourg this week on the international stage, albeit two of his assists during the Luxembourg thrashing did come from out wide. They were, however, crucially from the second stage of corner routines involving a flooded box.
Mason Mount will be a much better fall-guy for Ten Hag to consider rather than weakening the club without Fernandes in the middle as United currently have few options on the right. The £60 million newcomer has experience in this position from his time at Chelsea and for England’s national team.
That might be contingent on Mount’s fitness as he recovers from injury in the near future. United now have a perfect stop-gap that allows them to release their best player from self-imposed restraints in the long run.