Manchester United’s game against Aston Villa yesterday saw a series of poor performances, but the absence of Bruno Fernandes was perhaps the main reason for the defeat.
Writing for The Athletic, Carl Anka makes precisely this point.
United’s attacking intensity often comes from the decisive, if sometimes reckless, actions of Fernandes, who is happy to produce line-breaking passes.
His leadership role can’t be underestimated either, with Anka noting that the Red Devils average 55% possession with the Portugal star in the squad compared to 50% without him.
In the creative role, Bruno was replaced by Donny van de Beek and in the leadership role by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Van de Beek is a poor alternative at number 10, he doesn’t have Fernandes’ creative flair and he’s a very confident passer.
While Anka believes “Van de Beek’s strengths as a playmaker come from his lack of the ball”, the fact remains that United didn’t even see that from the Dutchman yesterday.
The former Ajax midfielder was simply invisible against Aston Villa, with his off-the-ball runs easily spotted as he faded from the game.
The fact that he only registered 18 touches in over an hour just goes to show how ineffective he was at finding space.
As for Ronaldo, the legendary striker had problems of his own when he wore the armband in Bruno’s absence.
Ronaldo was recently reprimanded for refusing to be called up as a substitute, and his poor example left him out for an important game against Chelsea.
And against Villa, the striker was “unable to outwit Mings” as he struggled in vain to provide an attacking threat.
With Mings barely in the shape of his life, that’s a pretty damning result for Ronaldo.
On top of that, the armband seemed to exacerbate a problem that always exists with the Portugal star in full-back.
United players often give in to Ronaldo’s whims when he’s on the pitch, with the striker acting as a sink for opportunities.
Rather than capitalize on good opportunities with sharp passes and fine movement, United frequently threw the ball to Ronaldo at Villa Park.
That habit was clearly to Erik ten Hag’s annoyance, with the Dutchman calling his team’s actions “stupid” after the match.
With Van de Beek unable to offer the creativity of Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo unable to replace his leadership, Ten Hag will certainly hope his star midfielder remains available in the future. United Matchday Magazine – Stay on top of all things red! Take a seat for the Aston Villa game and join the debate on United’s hottest topics!
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