It may not have been vintage, but Manchester United got back to winning ways with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Fulham this afternoon, with the Red Devils leaving it late at Craven Cottage for the second season running.
A year on from Alejandro Garnacho’s stoppage-time strike over Marco Silva’s men to seal a 2-1 win, it was the turn of under-fire skipper, Bruno Fernandes, to produce a rare moment of quality for the visitors, after an early effort from Scott McTominay had been controversially ruled out for offside.
The composed finish from the Portuguese magician at the death will undoubtedly steal the headlines following a grim week for United, with the 29-year-old sparing both his and his teammates blushes on the day.
Bruno Fernandes’ performance in numbers vs Fulham
It is fair to say it has been a dire week – and season – for the former Sporting CP man, with the experienced figurehead having been rested for the defeat to Newcastle United in midweek, after previously coming in for criticism from club legend Roy Keane regarding his status as captain following the Manchester Derby.
The best way to respond to such critique is to produce on the field, although it wasn’t exactly a sparkling performance from Fernandes on the whole against the Cottagers, as he was notably “poor and wasteful” throughout the contest – in the words of journalist Sam Pilger.
That was evident as the £240k-per-week playmaker lost possession 20 times with things just not clicking into gear in the final third, having also provided just one key pass from his number ten berth – lower than his 2.8 average for the season in that regard.
Alas, the 61-cap international did manage to conjure up one moment of magic at the death to claim a perhaps dubious Man of the Match award, although it is fair to say it was teammate Harry Maguire who was the “worthier winner”, as per Pilger.
Harry Maguire’s statistics vs Fulham
Having been stripped of the armband after making just eight Premier League starts last season, it looked as if Maguire’s time at Old Trafford was coming to an inevitable end over the summer, having fallen way down the pecking order under Ten Hag.
Fast forward a few months, however, and the 30-year-old has been reinstated as a central cog in the defensive machine, the former Leicester City man capitalising on the injury woes of his positional peers to cement a place in the starting lineup once again.
Partnered with veteran ace Jonny Evans – with World Cup winner Raphael Varane watching on from the bench – the England international proved that he is becoming rather “undroppable”, according to ex-United ‘keeper Peter Schmeichel, with a dominant performance in west London.
The towering brute notably won nine of his 12 total duels on the day after repeatedly putting his body on the line for his side despite sustaining a head injury early on, with the Sheffield native seemingly playing through the pain barrier to help steer his side to a vital three points.
While the resurgent talent did lose possession on 11 occasions, he regularly looked to try and tee up those ahead of him with an incisive threaded pass, having made 12 passes into the final third – more than any other player on the pitch.
Composed on the ball and colossal off it, such a performance was a reminder of what Maguire can offer the side when at his best, with the centre-back’s gritty and determined display typifying what United need as they seek to grind out results over the coming weeks.
In the meantime, Ten Hag can breathe a little easier – for another few days, at least.