Ten Hag and Rashford defend Fernandes after Liverpool display

By Sports Desk March 08, 2023

Erik ten Hag labelled Bruno Fernandes "an inspiration" as the Manchester United manager leapt to the defence of his vice-captain after attracting criticism in the wake of Sunday's thrashing by Liverpool. 

The Portuguese midfielder was chastised for his performance and attitude during United's humiliating 7-0 defeat at Anfield, with critics suggesting he should lose the armband, which he wears in the absence of out-of-favour club captain Harry Maguire.

However, Ten Hag dismissed those suggestions and is optimistic his on-field captain will respond well to the weekend's hardships. 

"Everyone has to learn, I have to learn, he will learn as well because he's intelligent," the Dutch manager said at a press conference ahead of his side's Europa League first-leg fixture against Real Betis.

"He's an inspiration for the whole team but no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. I'm really happy to have Bruno in the team and really happy that if Harry Maguire isn't on the pitch then Bruno is the captain. 

"He's been playing a brilliant season, he has a really important role for why we are in the position we are because he's giving energy to the team, running a lot at the highest intensity, but also in the right way, right direction, and he's pointing and coaching players."

Marcus Rashford seconded his manager's thoughts and threw his full support behind Fernandes, whom he believes has been invaluable since joining from Sporting CP in 2020.

He said: "I love playing with Bruno, as you can imagine. I think, for a forward like me, he's a perfect player to play with. 

"He's been a good leader for us even when not captain, which is always a good sign. He's helped others become better leaders. 

"Nobody's perfect and sometimes you want to win so bad that you end up doing things that are a little out of character. 

"I 100 per cent support Bruno and I'm behind him, and I think as a team we have to support him because he's a fantastic player and as the boss said, we wouldn't be in the position that we're in if he wasn't playing games for us."

The Red Devils host Betis on Thursday. The Spanish side – coached by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini – are fifth in La Liga.  

Related items

  • Virgil van Dijk admits Liverpool overcompensated in absence of injured stars Virgil van Dijk admits Liverpool overcompensated in absence of injured stars

    Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk admits the team was probably guilty of trying too hard to compensate for the absence of a host of star players in the 4-1 victory over Luton.

    Forwards Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah were the latest added to an absentee list, which had grown to 11 senior players and left manager Jurgen Klopp short of options, certainly of match-winners, as his bench comprised three defenders and four academy players.

    The likes of Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo, and to a lesser extent Luis Diaz, all struggled up front in the first half, but four goals in an impressive second-half comeback after going behind in the 12th minute re-established a four-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.

    Klopp’s side have won now 22 points from losing positions this season, more than any other team.

    “First half with the very first chance (for Diaz) we could have changed the game, but we were a bit rushed in the final third,” said Van Dijk.

    “Obviously the way we turned it around was credit to the boys.

    “Staying calm is the most difficult thing to do, especially in the situation where we are at; everyone wants to show themselves and play their best game ever, and you have to try to stay calm and find the right solution.

    “The first half was a bit rushed and that’s why we struggled a little bit in that sense. Being 1-0 down is never nice, but the way we bounced back is good to see.”

    Elliott, on his 100th appearance, scored the team’s 100th goal of the season with the late fourth to end his night on a high after coming in for some vociferous criticism from the crowd.

    However, Klopp – who remonstrated with a fan who appeared to target Elliott after yet another pass went astray in the first half – defended the 20-year-old.

    “Top performance. And Harvey is a top player; 100 games for Liverpool FC in not the worst period of the club’s history, where you cannot afford players who (just) play the position, that’s a proper sign,” he added.

    “He had not a great first half. There was a pass with Lucho (Diaz); I saw he wants to play the pass instead of maybe he can go in a one-on-one situation.

    “But the reaction in the second half is the main difference, that’s the thing. That made this performance the performance and I’m so happy for him.

    “I don’t lose patience in these moments, I know that it’s a challenge for young boys.

    “When everything is great, they are super talents. When things don’t go well, you have to show up. And that’s what he’s learning more and more.

    “And with 100 games under his belt, we all know he will definitely play another 100, 200, 300 – if you ask him, 500 – for this club.”

  • Sarina Wiegman says England have ‘moved on’ from Olympic disappointment Sarina Wiegman says England have ‘moved on’ from Olympic disappointment

    England head coach Sarina Wiegman believes her side have “moved on” from the heartbreak of missing out on Olympic qualification.

    The Lionesses face Austria on Friday and Italy next Tuesday in a pair of friendlies which have replaced what they hoped would be Nations League semi-finals.

    A 6-0 thrashing of Scotland looked to have secured top spot in Group A1 in December, only for the Netherlands to score twice in added time against Belgium to pip England on goal difference and end Team GB’s hopes of qualifying for Paris 2024.

    “This is really the start of our Euros campaign and after the very disappointing result of not qualifying for the play-offs to qualify for the Olympics we moved on,” said Wiegman, whose side will bid to defend their European title in Switzerland next year.

    “This is the start, with two friendlies which is really good for us because we can try out some things.

    “We are also very close to the Under-23s [also training in Spain] so we can see them, we can connect with them and we get a lot of players that we can see where they are at this moment.

    “This is a great start because in April the Nations League starts which are the qualifiers for the Euros.”

    Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson had been named in Wiegman’s squad for the first time since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture, but the Arsenal defender withdrew with a hamstring injury on Sunday.

    Asked if club coaches had requested a limit on player minutes amid a three-way Women’s Super League title race and a spate of high-profile injuries, Wiegman said: “Not this time.

    “We are in contact with each other all the time, we update each other and of course we know how important the Women’s Super League is too but also the German League for Georgia [Stanway] and the Spanish league for the players who play in Spain at the moment.

    “Of course, we want to take care of the players but we want to do lots of things. We play to win but we also have the opportunity now to try out things and also manage minutes. With a busy calendar I think that’s something to be aware of.

    “The issue of injuries is a bigger picture and it’s about the load on the players. The calendar we talk about a lot, that we really have to address the calendar. I spoke up about that last week – we really ask FIFA and UEFA to change things.

    “But we are doing a job as good as possible with all the expertise we have in our team and staff. We have a programme and we monitor the players really well.

    “You’re in an environment where an injury can happen because it’s a physical sport, but if you can diminish the risk of injuries as much as possible, that’s also what we try to do.”

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe outlines plans for success and glamour at Manchester United Sir Jim Ratcliffe outlines plans for success and glamour at Manchester United

    Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has set out his vision for bringing some of the Eric Cantona glamour and swagger back to Old Trafford.

    The 71-year-old Ineos founder and chairman wants the club he has supported since the age of six to be seriously challenging their “noisy” north-west neighbours Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European titles within three seasons, and “knock them both off their perch”.

    In a wide-ranging briefing, Ratcliffe also:

    :: Outlined his hope to either redevelop Old Trafford at a cost of around £1billion, or build a new £2billion stadium with state support that could host England matches, FA Cup finals and Champions League finals.

    :: Admitted Dan Ashworth would be “a very good addition” to the Manchester United leadership as sporting director and said it would be “absurd” if he remained on gardening leave after his departure from Newcastle.

    :: Pledged that a fresh decision would be taken on Mason Greenwood’s future.

    :: Joked about whether Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim, his long-time rival for full control of United, even existed.

    Ratcliffe, who by the end of the year will hold a 28.9 per cent stake in United and whose Ineos company now controls football operations at Old Trafford, conducted the interview with a bust wearing a United number seven shirt stationed behind him, collar turned up in the fashion of the club’s hero of the 1990s Eric Cantona.

    “(Cantona) was the catalyst for change in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era … and then that sort of kickstarted everything off. He was the sort of talisman,” Ratcliffe said.

    “There has always been a bit of glamour attached to Manchester United which has been lacking a bit in the last few years. You’ve had George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric the King for a while.

    “At the end of the day we are in the entertainment business. So that’s why you don’t want to watch bland football or characterless football.

    “And to be honest, since Christmas, with the young lads, they have played some fantastic football.

    “There have been some great matches. I can’t remember many matches at the beginning of the season I was really excited by but since Christmas we have played some really good football and there has been a bit of glamour attached to some of these footballers on the pitch, and we have really enjoyed it.

    “The three young lads (Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo) sitting on the hoarding at the side – that was a good picture. So I think that’s the ‘Eric’ point really. We are cognizant of the fact you do need a bit of glamour in this.”

    Ratcliffe says improving the club’s record on recruitment is “top of the list” of things to get right, and publicly stated his club’s interest in Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on gardening leave by Newcastle after expressing his desire to leave the Tyneside club.

    “I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he (Ashworth) needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump,” Ratcliffe said.

    “We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

    “So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

    Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.”

    Also key to the transformation as Ratcliffe sees it is a redeveloped Old Trafford or a new stadium built partially with state support.

    Ratcliffe said a taskforce would be set up to look at the feasibility of the latter option and agreed former Manchester United defender Gary Neville would be an “obvious” person to include on it.

    Ratcliffe sees no issue with one of the world’s richest clubs in United seeking state support for such a project.

    “The people in the north pay their taxes like the people in the south pay their taxes,” he said.

    “But where’s the national stadium for football? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for rugby? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for tennis? It’s in the south. Where’s the national concert stadium? It’s the O2, it’s in the south. Where’s the Olympic Village? It’s in the south.

    “All of this talk about levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse… where is the stadium in the north? How many Champions Leagues has the north-west won and how many Champions Leagues has London won? The answer to that is the north-west has won 10 – Liverpool have won more than us – and London has won two.

    “Where do you have to go if you get to the semi-final of the FA Cup and you’re a northern club? You have to schlep down to London, don’t you?

    “People in the north pay their taxes and there is an argument that you could think about a more ambitious project in the north which would be fitting for England, for the Champions League final or the FA Cup final and act as a catalyst to regenerate southern Manchester, which has got quite significant history in the UK.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.