Bruno Fernandes established himself as Manchester United’s penalty king in the closing months of last season.
Yet the Portuguese international has told the club’s official website he doesn’t mind not taking spot-kicks if someone else feels more confident.
“It doesn’t matter if I take penalties.
I already talked with some players. Rashy was the guy who took the penalties so I tell him:, ‘When you feel confident, if you want to take the penalty’. For me, it is not a problem.
I will not fight. If someone comes to me to ask to take a penalty, I will not fight every time, just to take a penalty.
I can be tired or not prepared to take a penalty and I can say easily: ‘You take it’. I trust in my team-mates – Rashy, Anthony [Martial] and also Paul [Pogba]
We have really good penalty-takers. The most important thing is scoring for Manchester United. It doesn’t matter if it is Bruno or someone else.
Despite Bruno’s faith in his team-mates, the numbers don’t quite bear that out.
In the first ten games of the 2019/20 season – before Bruno’s arrival – United missed four penalties.
Marcus Rashford missed twice, against Crystal Palace and Norwich. Anthony Martial also missed against the Canaries and Paul Pogba saw his kick at Wolves saved.
Those missed penalties cost United three points, and made the difference between an unbeaten start – seven points from nine games – and the actual reality of four from nine, including a home loss to Palace.
Bruno’s comments hint at a system whereby United have various designated penalty takers, who decide between them in the moment who steps up.
After the aforementioned penalty failure at Wolves, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shed some light on the system to the BBC.
“The two of them (Rashford and Pogba) are designated penalty shooters. Last week, Marcus was confident enough, this week Paul was. That’s just a decision they’ve made out there.
Solskjaer confirmed he didn’t have the final say, adding: “It’s who’s confident enough, who wants the penalty. That’s Paul and Marcus’ decision together.”
Put simply, that system of passing the ball around wasn’t working, and since Bruno came in and took over, United haven’t missed a penalty.
The impact of that can’t be underestimated.
It helps United be more clinical when a chance as presentable as any you can hope to get comes our way, and avoids the boost handed to the opposition when a spot-kick goes begging.
It would be a mistake for Bruno to resume the system of passing responsibility around, increasing the risk of a return to the penalty farce from the beginning of last season.
It should be mentioned that Bruno handed responsibility to Rashford in the 5-2 win over Bournemouth in July, and the Englishman did the business.
That was presumably to give Rashford the chance to net his first goal since lockdown and injury and give him the confidence needed to kick on and get back to his best.
It didn’t really have that effect, with Rashford struggling to rediscover his best form between that match and the end of the season.
It’s admirable that Bruno is willing to share the responsibility around, but he shouldn’t be asked to.
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