After a dismal previous campaign, Manchester United decided to make drastic changes and for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, brought in a manager who is at the top of his game.
And the appointment seems to be working its magic after an initial period of difficulty with the players much more attuned to their new manager’s style of play.
And that style is a far-cry from what was being practiced back when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge. The Norwegian relied more on a counter-attacking stance and with a much-weaker squad it worked well for the first two seasons.
Bruno the star
But when the squad outgrew its potential, things unravelled fast and a change was necessary. Now the team is much more modern in its approach with a reliance on possession, team pressing drills and fast transitions.
One player who is yet to match the dizzying heights he reached when he first came over to the Premier League is Bruno Fernandes.
In his first half season, the Portuguese was an instant hit as he scored eight goals and provided seven assists in 14 Premier League matches and such was his impact that he went on to become the club’s Player of the Season.
OFFICIAL: Bruno Fernandes will miss Manchester United's Premier League game against Aston Villa after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season against West Ham. 🟨
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 30, 2022
The former Sporting Lisbon star did not stop there, as he produced yet another goal-gluttonous campaign notching 18 goals and 11 assists in 36 games to be named Player of the Season once again.
And with a stronger squad and the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, the onus of scoring goals gradually reduced and with Ten Hag at the helm preferring team combinations, it has dwindled further.
And that has led to less goals and assists, something critics use and frequently point out during their vociferously attacks on the 28-year-old.
Bruno the fading star?
Something Fernandes needs to master under the Dutch manager is the art of patience and knowing when to try ambitious passes.
This United side is no longer one that constantly needs the attacking playmaker to try his Hollywood balls each and every time.
Stats sometimes do not say the full picture. The United No 8 has scored twice so far this campaign and his excelled in defensive transitions but his loss of possession stats do not make for the best reading.
He lost possession 11 times in total against West Ham last weekend, and often his loose balls or fancy flicks get picked up by the opposition and they launch a counter-offensive.
Both West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur earlier had chances to score after Fernandes’ loose touch. It was a recurring problem last season as well.
Erik ten Hag talks about Donny van de Beek returning and his role in the squad ⬇
"We need goals, and Donny is really good in scoring positions" 🗣 pic.twitter.com/CC6MSYnpcj
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) October 28, 2022
The Portugal international loses the ball an average of 15.3 times per match, which is the most of any United player so far this season. And that has simply got to change under Ten Hag.
Can EtH solve the Bruno puzzle?
His suspension-enforced absence against Aston Villa might be a good chance for the former Ajax boss to try out different combinations in a bid to find a suitable replacement as Fernandes has simply been over played since his move to Manchester.
That has been partly due to his own excellent form coupled with the inability of stars like Donny van de Beek and Fred to show any sort of creative spark when deployed in his favoured role.
The Premier League game and the subsequent EFL Cup tie could be just the break Ten Hag needs to figure his next course of action with regards to the No 10 position.
There is a lot to like about Fernandes including his leadership skills, his hardworking nature and his passion but Ten Hag needs to temper his aggression with serenity and Christian Eriksen could be the perfect role model.
Hopefully, under Ten Hag, the attacking midfielder can stop trying to put on his solo act and instead be a part of the United orchestra as they gather steam ahead of what will be hopefully a memorable season.
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