Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag came to the aid of his captain, the Portuguese Bruno Fernandes, on Wednesday, severely criticized and accused of having abandoned his team on Sunday during the humiliating defeat against Liverpool (7-0).
“He had a very important role in our good series by bringing his energy to the team,” said the Dutch technician on the eve of the knockout stages of the Europa League against Betis Sevilla. “No one is perfect, but he is an example for the whole team”.
“Everyone has to learn from their mistakes. He will learn because he is smart. I’m happy to have Bruno Fernandes in my team,” he added.
The behavior of the 28-year-old attacking midfielder, who allegedly attacked an assistant referee and his opponent Trent Alexander-Arnold on Sunday, was widely commented on and harshly judged by some supporters who demanded that the armband be removed.
Former club star Roy Keane, now a consultant, even felt that Fernandes’ attitude had been shameful.
“I love playing with Bruno”, also supported his partner Marcus Rashford. “He’s a good leader, even when he’s not captain, which is a good sign. I have nothing negative to say about him.”
The day after the Red Devils’ heaviest defeat of the Mancunians, a week after ending a six-year drought by winning the League Cup, the Dutch coach spoke with his players.
“We talked. We have to draw conclusions and bounce back,” said Ten Hag. “We are all in the same boat. We want to become a great team, win trophies. Sunday is a great lesson. We have to act differently”.
“We did not let go,” said Rashford again. “Yes we were disorganized, we communicated badly and that’s why we conceded goals. At 2-0 and 3-0, we tried to hang on. But we didn’t agree on what had to be done”.