Bruno Fernandes hasn’t looked himself in recent weeks, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received justified scrutiny over his decision to play the star midfielder against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford last week.
Manchester United ’s European exertions have appeared to have caught up to Fernandes in his latest league outings, although the narrative that he’s the only player that’s currently underperforming is exhausting.
Solskjaer will be faced with arguably one of his biggest challenges to date at the weekend in the Manchester derby, attempting to put an end to Manchester City’s 21 game winning streak.
The fixture seems daunting enough without considering United’s recent performances, with the Reds recording consecutive goalless draws across their last two Premier League games.
It’s no secret the Norwegian needs to reignite United’s season, and the Portuguese midfielder, who is the club’s top goalscorer this term with 15 league goals, has often provided the spark since his arrival last January.
However, while there’s no denying the sensational impact Fernandes has had, critics have stated his performances against the topflight’s ‘Big Six’ just aren’t good enough.
Some of this is unfair, though, simply a correlation with United’s poor showings against such sides.
“I think United are looking at the teams more behind them and trying to keep the distance, instead of saying ‘let’s go and win football matches’,” Roy Keane said on Sky Sports.
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Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players were frustrated for the third goalless game in succession, dropping more points to allow Man City to streak away at the Premier League’s summit, on a poor day for the forwards.
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Keane’s words have substance. United have crucially lacked a winning mentality when approaching games of high importance, although it would be foolish to question Fernandes’ desire and hunger.
The Portugal man has, more often than not, proved the catalyst to United’s success, almost single-handedly transforming the squad’s fortunes, always demanding more from his colleagues.
The odds seem stacked against United to get a result at the Etihad, but they’ve been there before and claimed the scalp of their rivals in equally unlikely circumstances. This is not new territory.
If United are to put an end to City’s miraculous run, Fernandes delivering a memorable display seems inevitable. There would be no better way to silence the doubters.