Home » The Athletic: How Erik ten Hag uses Bruno Fernandes to solve Manchester United’s problem

The Athletic: How Erik ten Hag uses Bruno Fernandes to solve Manchester United’s problem

by Kuda Jinya

Since the end of Qatar 2022 and the return of Premier League football, Bruno Fernandes has become one of Manchester United’s most important players.

Throughout this season, his role in the team has evolved.

Recognised as United’s best playmaker and the spark behind virtually every attacking sequence, he is now effectively the Red Devils’ captain and Erik Ten Hag’s next-best alternative for the right wing (via The Athletic).

As reported by The Athletic, Ten Hag deployed Fernandes out on the wing during United’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth.

Ten Hag’s decision follows a tactical trend in which the Portuguese commands the right of United’s 4-2-3-1. At the same time, another midfielder operates through the middle.

Fernandes plays with a high-risk/high-reward passing style that distinguishes him from any other number 10 in the league.

His prowess as a midfield maestro is best appreciated in a central role.

According to The Athletic’s Carl Anka, there is a justifiable and notable reason for Ten Hag’s using the Portuguese star on the wing.

United have the lead

Anka makes an astute observation about the occasions when Ten Hag has played Fernandes down the wing.

The majority of these instances are when United are already in the lead. When victory is assured, the Portuguese maestro abandons his central role in favour of the right wing.

For example, Fernandes played on the right in the second half against Nottingham Forest.

There were 25 minutes left in the game before the Red Devils claimed victory.

Fernandes moved out to the flank following the introduction of Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial. The tactic was repeated against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

According to The Athletic, the only occasion when United were not winning and employed this strategy was in their 1-0 Europa defeat to Real Sociedad.

Dampening the attack of aggressive opposition

The Athletic reports that Ten Hag uses Fernandes on the right specifically ‘When United want to pin back an aggressive opponent.’

It’s a sound strategy that has paid dividends so far.

As stated by Anka, playing Fernandes on the right puts a gifted player in a position that needs shoring up. Secondly, it allows United to fill the middle of the pitch with attackers who can await quality delivery and service from out wide.

A case study of this strategy in play is United’s third goal against Bournemouth.
Fernandes is a talented off-ball runner and an undeniable threat during counter-attacks.

Ten Hag is again showing his resourcefulness by letting one of his most valued deputies do the grunt work. At the same time, his less-experienced foot soldiers hone their skills. It’s by no means a long-term solution, but it is an effective tactic for the time being.


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