Embattled Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has hit back at critics of Bruno Fernandes after the Red Devils captain scored a stoppage-time winner against Fulham on Saturday to earn the visitors a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage saving the Dutch job.
The Red Devils travelled to Craven Cottage under enormous pressure after back-to-back home defeats against Manchester City and Newcastle, losing both matches 3-0.
They thought they had taken an early lead in west London but saw Scott McTominay’s effort ruled out for a marginal offside by VAR and then had to withstand several periods of sustained pressure from Fulham.
It was a below-par performance from United and Fulham had several chances to take the lead, but Fernandes produced a moment of magic in the 91st minute to claim all three points at the death.
Asked what he says to people who have questioned Fernandes’ captaincy credentials, Ten Hag said:
“So everyone has their mistakes and no one is perfect. But he is doing a lot of things very good. He shows every time as a captain that he is an example,” Ten Hag told TNT Sports.
“As you saw today, how he is working, how he is pressing and then in the end he scores the goal. So he’s massively important for us.”
Asked how big a goal it was for his side, Ten Hag replied: “It’s clear. We scored a goal in the beginning [offside goal], we scored in the end.
“But if you score in the end, away from home, it’s always the best moment because for the opponent it’s then almost no time to get back.”
The Portuguese midfielder had been criticised in the wake of last weekend’s defeat to City, with Roy Keane saying his ‘moaning’ meant he was not ‘captain material’ while Gary Neville also said he was not an ideal fit for the leadership role.
But Ten Hag feels his skipper’s display against Fulham has firmly shut them up, praising Fernandes for once again delivering when it mattered most and leading by example.
Reacting to his late goal, Fernandes said: “With the goal you could see the belief of everyone, fighting for that ball. Everyone was fighting and at the end, I could get the shot for the goal and the three points.
“It’s really important, we know the position we are in. We need to get results; it was massively important for us to get the three points today. We need to get points to start building something, we have to start somewhere because we’ve got big games coming.”ause we’ve got big games coming.”