Erik ten Hag accuses Forest of ‘targeting’ Bruno Fernandes in FA Cup tie

By Sports Desk February 28, 2024

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag accused Nottingham Forest of targeting Bruno Fernandes in his side’s FA Cup win at the City Ground and branded criticism of his captain “pathetic”.

The Portugal midfielder overcame a “serious injury” to play his part in United’s 1-0 victory at Forest, setting up Casemiro’s 89th-minute winner from a free-kick.

He was on the receiving end of plenty of robust challenges from Forest throughout the 90 minutes while also being the butt of social media jokes after Saturday’s loss against Fulham where he suffered the problem.

Fulham’s official TikTok account poked fun at him for appearing to feign injury and it got Ten Hag’s back up.

Asked about the severity of Fernandes’ injury, he said: “I don’t want to go into that because you saw that Forest was targeting him, so I don’t tell what he has but it was a serious injury.

“There were many fouls on him. Maybe I am a little bit too tough but when he has the ball they were really tight on him.

“Then I see that serious media criticise him and social media is pathetic and it can’t be.

“He has a serious injury but he continued to play on Saturday and today he also fought to be part of the game and he has a very high pain threshold.

“Last year he did also something similar against Spurs and in the semi-final and it shows his leadership because that expresses his character and that is very good when you are a leader.”

This was far from a classic performance by United, who face Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, but they got the job done and kept hopes of finishing the season with a trophy in tact.

That is not going to be easy, though, as they were handed quarter-final draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford in two and a half weeks.

“There are many good teams in the Premier League, Liverpool at this moment is top but it is a great challenge and we are really looking forward and we like the challenges, it is a great game for us to play.

“But first of all we are now looking forward to Sunday.”

Extra time was looming when Casemiro glanced Fernandes’ delivery past Matt Turner to send United’s travelling contingent wild.

The goal survived a lengthy VAR check as Raphael Varane, who was in an offside possession, blocked a couple of Forest players, but he was ruled not to be interfering in play.

Such has been Forest’s frustration at refereeing decisions in recent weeks, they have appointed Mark Clattenburg to act as a conduit to the PGMOL and he was spotted sat next to Howard Webb.

And this was another decision that went against them but boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who swatted away Ten Hag’s suggestions of targeting Fernandes, did not want to dwell on it.

Nuno said: “I didn’t see clearly the images but speaking with the players they say it is a block and a possible offside. They checked it.

“We have had so many issues in this period with VAR and referees that we try to forget about it and move forward.

“I think it was a good performance, we played good, much better than the previous game, so improvement from that.

“It is frustrating to lose it in the end but I think we played good, football is cruel sometimes and today we are on that side.”

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