Bruno Fernandes’ electric form in the second half of last season saw him win Manchester United’s player of the season award.
This was pretty remarkable considering he only joined the club in January.
His form has not quite been as dynamic this season. Just like against Chelsea a week ago, Fernandes hit a brick wall.
Against Arsenal, Fernandes was substituted after 74 minutes. He had been strangely ineffective.
He completed 71 per cent of his passes, below his season average which had been higher than 80 heading into this game.
Fernandes created only chance chance, having averaged 3.6 chances created per game prior to the match.
He had only one shot, which was deflected out for a corner.
Why did he struggle?
The change in formation may have been a contributing factor. Fernandes had some adjusting to do.
Credit should go to Arsenal too for putting him under pressure and not giving him space to turn and pick passes.
Fernandes was guilty on occasion of playing blind passes, giving the ball away too cheaply.
United could not get him on the ball enough, with Fernandes managing just 54 touches in 74 minutes.
Tiredness and fatigue is a factor and Fernandes may have needed more than the one game ‘rest’ he got by not starting against Leipzig.
Should United have repeated midweek approach?
In midweek he came off the bench and flourished when the game was breaking down against RB Leipzig.
This may have been the approach United should have taken against Arsenal, a side who pressed and battled United in a similar way.
When United needed to keep possession and build attacks, Donny van de Beek’s ability to retain the ball could have been particularly useful in the first half.
Fernandes’ continually giving it away only put United under more pressure.
Then when United needed a goal later in the game and the match got frenetic, Fernandes was sat on the bench. He could have been pretty useful in the late stages.
While leaving your so-called best player on the bench in big games may seem odd, sometimes you have to play to the strengths of those involved in certain situations, and for Fernandes, this may have meant coming on late and fresh to try and make an impact like in midweek.
Van de Beek deserves to play more, and Fernandes’ form in the Premier League is not justifying an automatic selection.
He isn’t the only one. Paul Pogba was also poor against Arsenal, arguably worse, but a switch for Fernandes is a more like-for-like situation to bring the Dutchman in.
United have a big decision to make against Everton next weekend now. Van de Beek should start, and there is a case that it should be at Fernandes’ expense.
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