Cristiano Ronaldo may have had his reasons for passing the penalty at the weekend to Bruno Fernandes, but it clearly was not the smartest move.

While Fernandes’ movement with his cocksure run-up was the same as last season, the end result was not, with the midfielder firing his effort at the post.

Fernandes is a player who looks exhausted at this point, and he is playing like it. Mentally and physically he looks like he needs a rest, and past exploits are catching up to him.

This season Fernandes has failed to reach double figures for goals, only on nine, having struck 28 last season.

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Your Club's SURPRISE Star This Season

Burned out

The signs have been there all season. Fernandes has not become a bad player overnight, but he is not performing at the same high level as he has previously. He may pop up with an assist here and there, but generally these come amid poor performances.

The blame for this situation is two-fold, it lies to a degree with the relentless schedule, but more so with his managers, predominantly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Telegraph reported last year that between June 2020 when football after lockdown resumed, and June 23 2021, Fernandes played an incredible 83 games for club and country. He actually played one more days later, making it 84.

Say that again, 84 games in 13 months. This was 5,455 minutes, and on 38 occasions, he had just two full days rest between matches. This was more games than any player in English football.

It was an insane workload, which saw little respite this season. Fernandes’ summer was short between Euro 2020 and pre-season, and the schedule has continued, with the only breaks coming due to United’s ineptitude, crashing out of cup competitions.

Let’s add this season’s figures to the mix. After the The Telegraph‘s, article, Fernandes has gone onto play 42 club matches this season, plus nine for Portugal. That’s 51 this season for club and country.

So since June 2020, over the past 22 months, Fernandes has played 134 competitive matches for club and country.

It is little wonder his sharpness isn’t there. That he is showing frustration and kicking out, moaning, when results are going against him. He may be holding up physically, but mentally he screams exhaustion, and his confidence isn’t their either, he’s worn down. He doesn’t look to be enjoying his football, and that is exacerbating his tiredness.

Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Managers must bear blame

United can only focus on his club game time, and there is no excuse for how Manchester United have utilised him. Solskjaer is the principle offender, but Ralf Rangnick could have identified it.

There have been alternatives. Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata are all earning a wage and can play his position. United have chosen to shun them all, and play Fernandes relentlessly to the point where he has lost his form.

There are other players faltering too, and it is no coincidence the ones struggling for form are the players overused by Solskjaer.

Marcus Rashford looks a shadow of his former self, while Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have both struggled throughout the season, after being leaned on under Solskjaer.

Rest him now

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

There really is little to play for over the final four games of the season. Statistical website FiveThirtyEight report there is a less than one per cent chance of landing a Champions League place.

United can benefit next season from resting Fernandes now, he needs it. There are alternatives, exciting ones too.

Forget Lingard and Mata, they can play if required, but United don’t need either, with both set to leave on free transfers before the end of the season.

Instead youngsters Hannibal or Shola Shoretire would benefit from first team minutes. Both are deserving, and trained with the United senior squad last week.

Trying Jadon Sancho in a central role would not go amiss either, if United wanted to get creative, but there are certainly options, and United don’t need to push Fernandes for 90 minutes over the last four games. It just isn’t necessary.

Thoughts? Comment Below
LOGIN to Comment
LOGIN to Comment
Dan is still wondering what would have happened if United had kept Juan Veron...