Why did Man Utd play Bruno Fernandes as a winger vs City? Ten Hag explains tactical call & Martial fitness gamble

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Manchester United Bruno Fernandes Casemiro Antony 2022-23
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has explained the thinking behind his decision to play Bruno Fernandes as a winger against Manchester City.
  • Red Devils shuffled their pack on derby day
  • Big calls paid off in a 2-1 win
  • French forward was an injury concern

WHAT HAPPENED? The Portugal international, who is more at home in a deep-lying playmaking post, was asked to fill a role on the flanks when the Red Devils faced their fiercest rivals on derby day at Old Trafford. The approach paid off, as an extra body was added to the midfield engine room, with Fernandes – who scored a controversial second-half goal - captaining United to a 2-1 victory that has fired them into the Premier League title race.

WHAT THEY SAID: Ten Hag told reporters when asked why he took to fielding Fernandes in an unnatural position: “The idea with Bruno on the right wing and especially in defending, we defended as usual but in possession he had a role to come in between the lines to bring an extra player there and bring the opponent problems and create hesitation and confusion and I thought he played that role brilliantly. The rest of the team adapted well to the situation and we had really good breaks by finding the free man. Bruno was an important factor in that role and important in the pressing as well. I didn’t know he was man of the match but he was my man of the match, definitely.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Ten Hag went on to say of his decision to include Anthony Martial in United’s starting XI despite the French forward nursing a knock that would lead to him being replaced at half-time: “I hoped to avoid him getting injured but he was complaining. That's why he also didn't train in the week and was a question mark [for the derby]. We decided, and he decided as well, to start. He begged to start. I knew the start would be so important in this game and he is really good at pressing and he is a really big element in our pressing. But I needed to re-evaluate at half-time as you saw he was not capable of going 100% and this is what you need. Also to avoid him getting injured so we took him off but it also had a negative impact on our game after half-time.”

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Bruno Fernandes

Erik ten Hag Manchester United Man City 2022-23

Anthony Martial Manchester United 2022-23

WHAT NEXT? United now have Wout Weghorst at their disposal, providing them with another alternative option in the striker department, and Ten Hag will have more big calls to make on tactics and selection when taking in a trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.