Manchester United are now eight competitive games into their first season under manager Erik ten Hag and while it hasn’t been plain sailing, they are on a run of four straight wins in the league and now have their first points on the board in this year’s Europa League campaign.
That being said, starring midfielder and fan favourite Bruno Fernandes has given more of an insight into the Dutchman’s coaching philosophy, alluding to ‘strict’ new rules and a change in atmosphere around the club.
Speaking in an exclusive with The Athletic‘s Adam Crafton, the 28-year-old playmaker revealed that, ‘first of all, he has an idea. He has a style’ and that the players have to stick to his overarching vision if they are looking to get into and stay in his team.
As he goes on to explain: “You have to follow [ten Hag’s] rules. He is strict on that. And I like that. He has brought discipline, which is something I think we missed in the past. Everyone must be on the same page.”
Planning and sticking to principles
The ‘Portuguese Magnifico’, who was United’s player of the year in 2020/21 with an incredible 28 goals and 17 assists in his debut season, drew comparisons between the former Ajax coach’s principles and that of his closest rivals in Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
“That is what Pep and Klopp have been doing for years”, says Fernandes, “because they have stability in the club and in the way they choose the transfer market and build the team, which is really important for them to get the rewards.”
United’s newly minted no. 8 recognised ten Hag’s plans to be pragmatic in the transfer window and purchase with purpose early, citing a press conference where he insisted that he did not want to bring players ‘just for the sake of it’ and that they must fit the blueprints of what he is trying to build.
Not only is the suggestion that the club have been guilty of this in the past – to the tune of more than a billion pounds in the past decade, no less – but Bruno himself believes ‘it is something the club needs’ moving forward.
Addressing on his own dip in performances over the last two seasons, admitting he regularly fluctuates between, bad games, really good games’ and ‘normal games, the ever-creative outlet says there is still plenty of work to be done before the team is all singing from the same hymn sheet.
“We still have a margin to improve and he needs time to get the most out of us with his idea of playing. I believe we will get to the point with him where we are established as a team and everyone is on the same page.”
Even on his off days, Fernandes still plays a vital role in this current Red Devils side and has regularly deputised for Harry Maguire, now sidelined from the squad since the arrival of Lisandro Martínez who has shored up the Man United defence alongside Raphaël Varane.
Fernandes also went on to discuss Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the man who brought him to the club, noting that he did ‘great things’ during his tenure and that the players must share some responsibility for his eventual sacking.
He even touched on short-lived interim coach and would-be consultant, Ralf Rangnick, who lasted just six months at Old Trafford before abandoning the project to become Austria’s national team coach.
Once again, Bruno suggested that his turbulent time at United was more because ‘confidence was low’ among the players and, therefore, they couldn’t put his ‘intensity and pressing’ into action, not to mention many of them being Solskjær signings who were brought in with ‘different ideas’ in mind.
The attacking midfielder summarised things by circling back to the somewhat unexpected win over Liverpool, arguing that ‘nobody was betting on Man United, only ourselves’. He believes that the team must now treat the rest of the season with the same mental attitude: being supportive, positive and ‘demanding of each other in a good way’.
Featured Image: Bruno Fernandes (via Instagram)
Despite the cynics, Man United mop up Premier League’s manager and player of the month awards for September
As many disillusioned fans were expecting, Manchester United made a shaky start to the Premier League season. However, they look to have gathered some form and momentum over recent weeks.
So much so, in fact, that after having strung together four wins on the bounce – two coming in big games against long-standing rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, no less – they have won both September’s manager and player of the month awards.
Netting two goals and a pair of important assists to go with them, the 24-year-old looks to finally be breaking his duck and underlying confidence issues.
A big goal in the derby against Liverpool and in the 3-1 victory over high-flying Arsenal has no doubt helped lift his spirits.
Man United fans will be hoping this is just the start of a Rashford renaissance.
Moreover, even beyond his direct goal contributions, Rashford’s all-around play looks to be returning to pre-slump levels, playing a key role in the transition and a more fluid forward line.
It seems like the United no. 10 is benefitting from a new way of playing or, perhaps more accurately, a new manager who clearly sees him as a key player in his system.
It’s clear that Erik ten Hag‘s approach hasn’t just benefitted the likes of Rashford and, say, Sancho but the team looks more well-organised as a whole. Earlier this month, Bruno Fernandes gave fans a bit more of an insight into the Dutch coaches ‘strict rules’ and discipline.
Not only have they kept clean sheets in three out of the last six games across all competitions but there has been a noticeable improvement in both passing and possession stats since he arrived, whilst still being able to sacrifice some of the ball for a more counter-attacking set-up went the game calls for it.
That being said, it is a long old season and many fans will still need some convincing that the squad is good enough to take them back to a competitive level.
Even the man himself isn’t getting too carried away just yet.
Nevertheless, both the panel of experts and those deciding via public vote seem to think his efforts over the last month are worthy of recognition, earning manager of the month alongside his once again firing forward.
This is the first time a United player and manager have scooped the monthly double since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s award in February 2019, who also won it alongside Rashford.
Accolades aside, ten Hag’s patience and pragmatism should serve the team well over the next few weeks, as United still have a challenging run-in.
As well as the Manchester derby on Sunday, their next four games include a home fixture against a growing Newcastle side, Conte’s high-flying Spurs and a Chelsea squad with more than enough quality to end their bad run of results.
Manager and player of the month aside, it’s about getting points on the board and his weekend is massive for Man United’s 22/23 campaign.
Football fans slam rail services after complaints of no derby day trains from London to Manchester
With derby day approaching, Manchester United and City fans are making their arrangements big fixture and while local Mancunians should be fine, people travelling from elsewhere look to be in a bit of bother.
More specifically, United and City fans living in London (yes, we know the joke) will have some trouble making their way up for the game if they’re travelling by public transport due to the ongoing rail strikes.
Sports writer Barney Ronay shared an exasperated tweet explaining how there are seemingly “no trains to Manchester from London for City v United this Sunday”, arguing that the overall “fan experience is so terrible now some are having to give up”.
He goes on to identify this as symptomatic of the “horrendous state of infrastructure killing away days” and even went so far as to diagnose the modern matchday as almost “masochistic”.
Plenty of fans who travel to see their respective clubs echoed his thoughts, commenting that the regular drama of “changed dates/hotels not refunding etc it is becoming too expensive for many” and that even outside of reasonable strike action, matchday services are difficult to plan around.
It is severely affecting away days. Supporting Altrincham in the National League, 14 clubs in the South. No trains due to industrial action is fair enough but outside of that its still really hard work to sort out & not financially viable for many to buy walk up off peak tickets.
Many of those commenting on the thread also clarified that despite tickets being displayed as ‘sold out’ or ‘unavailable’ online, this often isn’t true and it’s more a case of there being no seats left to reserve.
However, just as many were quick to respond that this offers little help to those who need to have a reliable plan for commuting back and forth, even more so when it comes to midweek games or those scheduled on a Sunday like this week’s Manchester derby.
Moreover, others rightly noted that very few people are in a financial position where they are able to buy an expensive face-value ticket on the day on the half-chance they might be able to squeeze onto a packed train and stand for more than two hours.
As was to be expected, plenty of people also took to ridiculing the tweet and the two clubs, advising to simply “support your local team” and so on. It was also pointed out that a United fan travelling to the match from London, for instance, isn’t exactly what most fans would dub an ‘away day’.
Nevertheless, even those travelling on ‘proper’ away days couldn’t help but agree with the overarching point, with many citing that they regularly spend upwards of £100-150 just getting to their destination.
Any travelling football fan will know – especially those coming to and from London – it’s an expensive habit this football lark and even after you make it to wherever the game is that day, you’re still forking out more for food, drink and perhaps even additional transport to the ground.
Beyond those strictly hoping to catch the Manchester derby, most seem to agree with the strikes and suggested that more needs to be done to combat “the government’s assault on living standards, terms and conditions, pensions” which are subsequently impacting matchday travel year-round.