Bruno Fernandes' petulance continues to leave Man Utd short-sided in adversity

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes talks to referee Peter Bankes
Fernandes was booked for dissent in the loss to Bournemouth - Reuters/Molly Darlington

Nine months ago, as Manchester United slumped to a humiliating 7-0 defeat at Liverpool, social media, and Gary Neville, claimed that captain Bruno Fernandes asked to be substituted during the embarrassment.

They were unproven claims that were swiftly denied by club and player although, as Erik ten Hag prepares to take his slumping side back to the scene of the crime next Sunday, there will be no danger of history – or alleged history – repeating itself.

The Portuguese international will be suspended for the Anfield visit after a petulant 84th-minute booking for dissent during a woeful 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.

It was his fifth yellow card of the season and one that was totally unnecessary, given that the result was already decided here and the United captain knew he was one caution away from suspension.

Craig Burley, the former Scotland international and now ESPN pundit, certainly did not hold back in his analysis of that particular piece of captaincy.

“Your captain knows his manager is under pressure and knows it’s Liverpool next week and knows he’s a yellow from a suspension,” he wrote on they social media platform X.

“Booked for dissent and constant whining. Bruno Fernandes is a disgrace.”

A stoney-faced Ten Hag declined to get into analysing Fernandes in any detail after the debacle, apart from conceding that losing the game was far more damaging than losing Bruno for the Liverpool clash.

But the fact remains that Fernandes’ behaviour and inconsistency is very much a reflection of the current malaise inflicting the club in general.

When he is good - as he was in Wednesday’s comfortable 2-1 win over Chelsea - then United tend to be likewise. By the same token, when his form and behaviour dips, United’s tend to follow suit.

It was certainly the case here, as his errant pass set up the opening goal of three for a Bournemouth side supposed to be among the division’s also-rans.

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder #08 Bruno Fernandes (R) reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Bournemouth
A booking for dissent summed up a woeful display from both Fernandes and United - Getty Images/Oli Scarff

With left-back Sergio Reguilon given instructions to play in a more advanced role, Fernandes seemed to crop up in the left-back position frequently, from where he gave away the first goal, and the tactic was one of many that did not work for Ten Hag and United on this occasion.

But, as has so often been the case when United have faced adversity, it was Fernandes’ attitude that let down himself and his team-mates, culminating in his late booking.

On one occasion late in the second half, he allowed play to continue around him while he chased after referee Peter Bankes to protest the latest perceived injustice against him and his team.

That passion and emotion make Fernandes a vital cog of Ten Hag’s team when they are playing well and fortunes are going their way. In adversity, however, those emotions can spill over into ill-discipline and self-harm.

Former Old Trafford captain Neville, in his self-appointed role as spokesman for all things United, has been a frequent critic of Fernandes on such occasions although, given their rank inconsistency this season, it is hard to imagine Ten Hag’s team would be better without their playmaker.

What will be of interest, however, is who deputises as captain next week  with Ten Hag having steadfastly refused to re-instate Harry Maguire to his former position thus far, despite the England centre-half having rehabilitated himself as a player under his management.

Luke Shaw may well be favourite for that role on Sunday although, surely, the debate will intensify over whether Ten Hag might be doing everyone - including Fernandes himself - a favour by relieving him of that responsibility longer-term.

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