The Portugal star was back in inspiring form against Leicester City, but failures at the other end of the field cost the visitors three points
As Bruno Fernandes doffed his imaginary magician’s hat to the television cameras inside King Power Stadium early on the afternoon of Boxing Day, the Portugal international must have thought he had won another important match for Manchester United.
Since arriving in the January transfer window, Fernandes has rarely failed to deliver on the Red Devils, and against Leicester City he was once again at the center of all the good United did.
His way toe pass from Marcus Rashford helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team take a first-half lead over the Foxes before the former Sporting CP captain found the net himself after combining with substitute Edinson Cavani to make the score 2-1 with 11 minutes left on the clock.
Talks about Solskjaer’s Premier League title challenge have been met with some mocking looks in recent weeks. This was, of course, a team that sent six against Tottenham and also lost at home to what now looks like increasingly desperate Arsenal.
But credit must be given to a United team that has started to deliver results domestically, and a win here would have seen them take two points from league leaders Liverpool after playing the same number of games.
However, it was not possible that defensive weaknesses cost Solskjaer’s team dear in the end.
After both Fernandes and Scott McTominay shared the blame for Harvey Barnes’ long-range draw in the first half, it was Eric Bailly who failed to keep Jamie Vardy inside the penalty area within the final five minutes that allowed the former forward. from England. secure a part of the points through a deviation of Axel Tuanzebe.
In a game where Brendan Rodgers’ team struggled to create clear chances, it was hard not to think that this was a missed opportunity for United to demonstrate their title credentials against a team that is still in a place above them on the table.
Heading into this weekend’s games, United had conceded the most goals of any team in the upper half of the Premier League (21), despite having played one game less than most of their rivals.
Liverpool, by contrast, have conceded just 19 despite losing talisman Virgil van Dijk, as well as regular teammate Joe Gomez, to long-lasting injuries. United have practically played a first-choice central defender all season, even if Solskjaer opted for Bailly to act as Harry Maguire’s partner here, with Victor Lindelof displaced to right back.
So how does United solve what is clearly becoming the problem that is holding them back the most?
Last season they flocked to Fernandes in the January window, and he’s proven to be a revelation. Of the 60 league goals United have scored since his arrival, the 26-year-old has scored 18 and assisted 13 others.
There is certainly talent around him, but United’s attack isn’t working unless Fernandes is pulling the strings.
The January window is just around the corner again, but making a Fernandes-style transfer to solve United’s defensive woes won’t be so easy this time around. , but doing so within the next month seems unlikely.
United prefers to do business in the summer window and will only move into January if there is a long-term goal available, which at this point does not seem likely.
“The pressure on the ball in the first was not good enough, and in the second we were able to stop the center, but we have a bit of bad luck with Vardy’s deflection,” Solskjaer explained after the match.
“When you score as many as we do, you have to accept that you open up a bit sometimes. [If] you win 3-2 you are happier than 0-0 ”.
That may well be the case, but United won’t win 3-2 every week, even with Fernandes on the team.
“The only thing I’ve missed this year is the trophies,” Fernandes said. BT sport before the start here. “I don’t have trophies for the club and that doesn’t make me happy. I hope 2021 can be better that way. “
United certainly have the attack to fight for those trophies, but a game-changing defensive signature will likely be required to make Fernandes dreams come true.
source: – target