Manchester United’s match against Aston Villa yesterday saw a number of poor performances, but the absence of Bruno Fernandes was perhaps chief among the reasons for the defeat.
Writing for The Athletic, Carl Anka makes just this point.
United’s attacking intensity often comes from the decisive – if at times reckless – actions of Fernandes, who is happy to churn out line-breaking passes.
His leadership role also cannot be understated, with Anka noting that the Red Devils average 55% possession with the Portugal star in the team compared to 50% without.
In the creative role, Bruno was replaced with Donny van de Beek and in the leadership role, by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Van de Beek is a poor alternative in the number ten role, having none of the creative instinct of Fernandes and being a very safe passer of the ball.
While Anka believes that “Van de Beek’s strengths as a playmaker come from his running off the ball,” the fact is that United did not even see that from the Dutchman yesterday.
The former Ajax midfielder was simply invisible against Aston Villa, with his off-the-ball runs easily picked up as he faded from the game.
The fact that he only registered 18 touches in over an hour only goes to show how ineffective he was at finding space.
As for Ronaldo, the legendary goalscorer had his own struggles as he wore the armband in Bruno’s absence.
Only recently was Ronaldo reprimanded for refusing to be called on as a substitute, with his poor example seeing him dropped for an important match against Chelsea.
And against Villa, the striker was “unable to outwit Mings” as he battled in vain to provide an attacking threat.
With Mings hardly in the form of his life, that is a fairly damning outcome for Ronaldo.
On top of that, the armband seemed to exacerbate an issue that always exists with the Portugal star in the side.
United’s players often defer to Ronaldo’s whims when he is on the pitch, with the forward acting as a sinkhole for chances.
Rather than working good opportunities with incisive passing and good movement, United frequently lumped the ball into Ronaldo at Villa Park.
That habit was clearly to Erik ten Hag’s annoyance, with the Dutchman branding his team’s actions as “stupid” after the match.
With Van de Beek failing to offer the creativity of Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo incapable of replacing his leadership, Ten Hag will certainly hope that his star midfielder stays available going forward.
United Matchday Magazine – be in the know about everything red!
Take your seat for the Aston Villa match and join the debate on the hottest United topics!
- Get all the match build-up, articles, news, puzzles, nostalgia and humour
- Online football content like you’ve never seen before
- No ads, no clickbait, no fake news – just 100% pure United
- Instantly delivered to your device with easy and secure online ordering
- Click Preview to see more or buy for just £1.25/$1.50