Manchester United fans cheered Bruno Fernandes’ name after an explosive performance in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham.
In 69 minutes, the midfielder curled home his first Old Trafford goal of the season and his second of the season. He has replied to criticism over his output this term before the game.
Prior to joining the Spurs, he had only scored once in 13 games. He asserted that he knew goals and assists will come, and he supported his idea this week.
In the win over Tottenham, United’s front three pressed more aggressively, with Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Antony all purposefully counter-pressing the defense within seconds of the ball being lost. The wingers dribbled the ball more and worked harder to beat their man on the flank.
Fernandes stated after the game that this allowed him to make runs forward, as opposed to occasions when the wide guys searched for an option inside. “It’s difficult for me to find those places when the wingers come inside because I have to make room for the players around me,” he explained to Amazon Prime.
“When Antony walked in, he was looking for Jadon or me. If he runs a little longer, I’ll have to take another route.”
This shift in strategy allowed Fernandes to get into an attacking position for his goal, and he scored another immediately after before the assistant referee called for offside.
Erik ten Hag is now at a tactical crossroads. He’s seen how effective Fernandes can be when his wingers resist the temptation to cut inside.
However, as witnessed with Antony, despite his one-footedness, his left boot can be lethal, having already scored three Premier League goals with it and coming close to adding a fourth in midweek.
Sancho also likes to venture inwards, leaving Fernandes with little room to maneuver. The playmaker has not missed a single minute of league action this season, so his place in the starting XI appears secure.
Antony also appears to have nailed down the right flank, with Sancho and Rashford – both of whom tend to come inside – interchangeable on the left. To get the most out of Fernandes, Ten Hag may have to instruct his wingers to take a different, less familiar approach.
He could also get them to switch flanks, but while Sancho has proven his adaptability, the same cannot be said for Antony and Rashford just yet. Ten Hag letting his wingers play their game and asking Fernandes to work inside those limitations for the sake of the team seems more realistic.
However, the Dutch coach has demonstrated his ability to change his method since joining United, and following Wednesday night’s performance, he may be inclined to repeat his tactics from the Tottenham game against Chelsea on Saturday.