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How do Manchester United get the most out of Bruno Fernandes?

by Scott Eckersley

Manchester United had to come from two goals down at half-time to stage a stirring second half comeback against Atalanta on Wednesday night.

It was a helter skelter encounter that showed fighting spirit but left unanswered questions about the tactical set up that sometimes blunted the attack and left the defence exposed.

In the middle of the ‘chaos’ was Bruno Fernandes, who overcame a mixed first half to have one of his most productive games in a red shirt.

The Athletic has taken a look at how Fernandes was used against the Italians and what Solskjaer needs to do to unleash a potentially lethal partnership between the midfield schemer and star forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite not having his most consistent game in England, Bruno still managed to create six chances from open play and eight in total.

His expected assists of 1.19 was his highest since joining from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020. That said, his risk-taking resulted in a first-half pass completion rate of a lowly 68%.

The Portuguese magician touched the ball an impressive 95 times in total – his second most in a United shirt this season.

Bruno was at his most effective when the forwards, especially Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford, made attacking runs into the spaces behind the opposition defence.

However, his effectiveness was stifled whenever United’s No.7 dropped deeper to get on the ball and crowded the area between the lines that Bruno likes exploit.

This happened in the run up to the first United goal but Rashford’s run opened up the opportunity for Fernandes’ superb vision and execution.

It seems clear that all three of Rashford, Ronaldo and the ever-improving Mason Greenwood need to resist taking the ball into feet. Instead, they should be making runs, stretching the opposition and giving Bruno options.

Exploiting space is all well and good against a high defensive line but the article goes on to consider how Solskjaer might repeat the trick against a deep-lying back four.

The suggestion is that the Norwegian should employ a mid-block to stop the defensive midfielders – likely McTominay and Fred – from over-committing.

Ronaldo would need to stay high up the pitch, occupying centre-backs and leaving pockets of space for his Portuguese teammate to find possession and look for runs into the penalty area and channels.

Might this be the best way to maximise the side’s rich attacking potential without being too easily countered? Fans will find out during this weekend’s blockbuster match against bitter rivals, Liverpool.

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