Home » Bruno Fernandes is the perfect captain for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes is the perfect captain for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United

by Darragh Fox

At certain points over the past decade at Old Trafford it may have been difficult to select an obvious candidate for the club captaincy.

This uncertainty is, in part, why Harry Maguire was entrusted with the role only five months into his Manchester United career. It was not necessarily a case of the right man for the role, but rather the only viable man in that moment.

It speaks to the rapid progress the team has undergone over the past twelve months, under the careful stewardship of Erik ten Hag, that there were a number of potential options this summer.

The Athletic contends any one of Casemiro, Raphaël Varane, Luke Shaw or Marcus Rashford could have been an “automatic choice” in recent years.

These “prominent figures” in the dressing room are likely to help form a leadership group around the new captain with only one “outstanding candidate” for the role; Bruno Fernandes, the man who emerged as the “de facto leader in Maguire’s absence” last season.

Ten Hag had made abundantly clear a decision regarding the captaincy was to be expected this summer. He had also made clear it would be his decision, not a player-led one.

As has become a theme in his short tenure at Old Trafford, the Dutch manager is unafraid to make decisive decisions around contentious topics, happily accepting full responsibility for their effects. He has not missed thus far.

The United players were officially informed of the transfer of captaincy from Maguire to Fernandes on the first morning of the American leg of their pre-season tour.

Ten Hag, conscious of the sensitivity involved in such a decision, had waited for the entire squad to be reunited from their staggered returns before making the announcement – Maguire would relinquish the captaincy to Fernandes.

Maguire is naturally disappointed, but his professionalism and work ethic ensure the club is unworried about potential repercussions.

Similarly, while the United team will feel sympathy for their former-captain, the newly-found clarity of the dressing room structure will help quell issues which began to emerge last season.

The Athletic reports some players were “reticent” about making speeches in the dressing room last season, as they “did not want to be perceived to be undermining Maguire.”

These feelings of unease even extended into the social realm, with attempts at organising nights out “laced with awkwardness”.

A captain would traditionally be the one to plan such an evening, but uncertainty over Maguire’s role within the squad even fed into something as seemingly trivial as this. The need for a decision by ten Hag is clear.

The Dutch manager values Fernandes’ “knowledge of the game and strength as a communicator” as his most highly-prized leadership qualities. Ten Hag dismissed doubts cast last season over United’s number eight’s suitability as leader as “crazy” following criticism of Fernandes’ remonstration-heavy style.

It is evident then ten Hag believes he has selected the right man. The Athletic contends the Dutchman sees Fernandes as the “perfect embodiment” of the mentality he feels is “fundamental to his vision of football”.

The reports emanating from the United dressing room suggests they see the transition from Maguire to Fernandes as an equally fundamental decision.

‘Heavy is the arm which wears the armband’ feels an apt aphorism to encapsulate Maguire’s tenure as United captain.

Despite possessing the requisite attitude and understanding of a captain, the centre-back never felt like a comfortable fit; the role appeared too large for his somewhat understated personality to fill. Fernandes will not have this problem.

The reign of Bruno begins.

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