Bruno Fernandes is an intense character, but there is nothing intense about his play or that of Manchester United right now.
Well, there is intense pain.
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United were dismantled by Manchester City in the derby at Old Trafford on Saturday, as their 2-0 defeat was in many ways more embarrassing than the 5-0 shellacking they suffered in their last home game against Liverpool.
Bruno Fernandes hasn’t scored for United in two months and has been asked to play in a deeper midfield role in a 3-5-2 system. He and United looked so far off Man City’s levels that he was scary.
The Portuguese star admitted that as he spoke to our partners in the UK at Sky Sports and didn’t mince his words about the defeat to Man City.
What did Bruno Fernandes say?
“It is just not good enough from us,” Fernandes said. “We have to change because this has happened many times already and we are at the beginning of the season. We have to do much better. Me being here, I am saying all of the same stuff. Nobody cares about this. We have to speak less and do more.”
“We have to find out and do better. That is it. What we did was not enough. That had space and time on the ball. We should not give this to this kind of teams and players. They are big players and we know they can hurt us. If you give any time on the ball to them, you have no chance.
“They showed us today was another level. We have to understand that. If we want to be at the same level as them we have to do much more. They showed us today that we are not at the same level. Everyone has to look at themselves and understand what they have to do better.
“It is about you looking at the mirror and seeing what you are doing wrong and do better in everything you can do. You cannot change anyone and change the mentality of anyone. We have to look to ourselves and see what you can do and no try to blame someone else. It is time for everyone to look in the mirror and see what he can do better, myself first.”
What can Manchester United change?
The most obvious, and easiest, change to make is the manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sounded and looked like he knows he’s on borrowed time.
But he will probably be in charge until January 2022 (at least) and with Antonio Conte heading to Tottenham this week, Manchester United missed out on one of the genuine world-class coaches available who could replace Solskjaer and build a new identity and give their talented squad some stability.
Because that is the issue here. United have a very talented team but there is a lack of confidence and players don’t seem to believe in the way they are playing, no matter the formation or the personnel.
Against City, United had fewer touches in an opponents box than any other game since 2008-09 when Opta began collecting that stat. Man City also completed more passes than any other team has completed against Man United since that stat began in 2003-04.
Manchester United played like they were scared of Manchester City, which is perhaps understandable after their hammering at the hands of Liverpool.
The 3-5-2 system was too defensive from the start and the way they stood off City showed how much respect they had for Pep Guardiola’s team. United have a run of winnable games coming up in November and December and they simply have to do the business against teams lower down the table to get themselves back on track.
Like Fernandes said, the last few weeks have been a stark wake-up call for United as to how far they are away from Liverpool and Manchester City, who along with Chelsea are genuine title contenders.
After United spent big to bring in Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, the team who finished second in the Premier League table last season have gone backwards at an alarming rate.
The balance of the team is off and United are now in a real battle to try and finish fourth.