Erik ten Hag explains why Bruno Fernandes is ‘leading’ Manchester United by right example

Erik ten Hag has praised Bruno Fernandes for his energetic captaincy and said the Portuguese is Manchester United’s coach on the pitch.

Manager Ten Hag faced calls to strip Fernandes of the armband after United’s 7-0 defeat to Liverpool, when the midfielder lost his cool and pushed the assistant referee, but instead kept him as skipper, when Harry Maguire is not playing, and was delighted with his response in the 4-1 win over Real Betis.

The Dutchman believes Fernandes is proving a leader in every respect, with his tactical advice and orders to his team-mates as well as by covering the most miles.

He said: “I am very pleased with his captaincy because he has given the team energy. He is not only giving the physical output, the best of the whole team, but also he is running in the right direction and he is pointing players in that direction. He is coaching players, he is leading the team in the tactical perspective.”

Fernandes risked a red card with a rash challenge on Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and Ten Hag added: “His emotion is his weapon but sometimes it’s too strong and of course I help him, I support him and I give him feedback.”

Fernandes scored one goal and made another against Betis and Ten Hag was pleased to see him add a header to his repertoire.

He added: “I think he has so much skills and now scoring with his head from a corner. He scores with his right, with his left, with his head, he is creating with final passes. Of course he is very happy when he scores a goal because that’s important.”

Fernandes was booked for challenge on Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (Getty Images)
Fernandes was booked for challenge on Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (Getty Images)

Wout Weghorst completed the scoring against Betis as he got just his second United goal, ending a 12-game drought and Ten Hag reflected on the on-loan forward’s litany of misses.

He added: “He is often in the right position, then he fails but he keeps going. So, he showed great personality and character, not only in this game.”

Weghorst has started all 15 games since his surprise signing and Ten Hag admitted he is surprised the player he borrowed from Burnley has been an ever-present.

“He is physically capable to play a lot of games,” he explained. “He is a very fit player and he recovers very good. Did I expect [he would start every game]? I expected that he would play a lot but obviously we have an injury with Anthony Martial, so that’s the main reason he’s playing every game from start to almost finish.

“Barcelona I think I took him off but many other games he played. I think he is doing well. If a striker or as a No. 10 in the midfield, he is also bringing good performances.”

Weghorst has played as a No. 10 away at both Barcelona and Liverpool and Ten Hag explained his thinking.

“I think he has intelligence from positions,” he said. “He is a very good anticipator. I tell him of course to link up there, which he is also doing as a high striker, linking up and getting in front of the goal when crosses are coming in and also the defending part he is very good in it.”