Erik ten Hag slams 'crazy' Bruno Fernandes captaincy critics after Man Utd midfielder plays through pain against Aston Villa
- Ten Hag silences Bruno critics
- Insists midfielder is 'big leader'
- Scored winner vs Aston Villa
WHAT HAPPENED? Despite picking up a knock in the FA Cup semi-finals and playing on through the pain barrier, Fernandes once again came up clutch for United as he fired in the eventual winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday. Ten Hag expressed his delight with Fernandes after the game, having given the Portuguese the armband again while naming Harry Maguire on the bench.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Speaking to Sky Sports, Ten Hag claimed: "He is so tough. A couple of weeks ago there were questions about his captaincy, which was crazy because he is such a big leader.
"He leads by example, gives so much energy to the team, so much desire and determination. If you want to win games and trophies, you need such players."
Fernandes admitted to reporters after the win against Villa that he still isn't 100 percent fit.
"I had a knock in the [FA Cup] semi-final that is still hurting a little bit but I can play, I can still help the team and when the manager needs me I will be available for the team to help," he said.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Fernandes has often picked up the armband in the absence of the regular skipper since signing for United in 2020 thanks to his significant impact on the team, and has become the de-facto team captain this season with club captain Maguire playing a significantly reduced role.
Fernandes had been pictured in a protective boot ahead of United's 2-2 draw with Tottenham in the midweek following their FA Cup semi-final win over Brighton, but was named in the starting XI despite concerns over his fitness.
Amid reports that Maguire could leave United this summer with him fearing he may never get back in under Ten Hag, there is a possibility that the Portugal international assumes the role permanently. Despite his winning goal against Villa, though, there has often been doubt cast over his mentality, with Fernandes often appearing to moan at his teammates and officials.
IN TWO PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT FOR MAN UTD? The Red Devils face a strong midweek test in the form of Brighton on Thursday. Ten Hag's men are due back in action three days later away at West Ham.