Premier League English

Tunnel confrontation, contract dispute and role change – Bruno Fernandes unhappy at Man Utd

Bruno Fernandes had been for all intents and purposes the shining star in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s improving Manchester United side last season but the story is being penned differently under Ralf Rangnick this campaign.

Admittedly it’s been tough going for Bruno Fernandes and Manchester United this season as the prior one saw the Portugal international tagged as the pivotal star turn in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s much-improving Red Devils side then.

Fernandes burst through netting 18 for the campaign in the Premier League, the third-best in the entire division, having been on target more than any other player in the middle of the park. But oddly things turn a sudden turn and things just haven’t been the same this season.

Various theories have been put forth to explain Fernandes’ sudden decline, ranging from his Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo stealing the thunder from him to the midfielder having to assume new roles in new systems under interim gaffer Ralf Rangnick.

The German tactician of Gegen-pressing fame, Rangnick, lost no time in implementing a 4-2-2-2 formation at United after assuming control in November, and this has deployed Fernandes in one of two number 10 roles rather than just as the designated number 10.

The Portuguese midfielder’s new role means he’s forced to travel out wide, while also sometimes having to be dropped back into the more defensive midfield positions in this system when Rangnick makes attacking changes. Obviously the new role hasn’t suited Fernandes, who has become accustomed to the creative space and freedom he had been given as the sole number 10 under Solskjaer last season.

Fernandes went some way to proving Ronaldo’s introduction may be the cause of his poor form when he netted twice against Aston Villa on the weekend without the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the starting XI. He also did this as a lone number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation. But United still dropped two points against the Villans, and Fernandes admitted his unhappiness after the fixture.

He said: “I think we get a perfect result to be in the perfect position to score even more goals. Get the third goal and finish the game.

“But in the end, we did not get the counterattack or last pass. They had the quality to score, they did and we draw. I don’t feel it, don’t feel it at all.

“Everyone is happy to score goals but I prefer to win. I prefer to take away my goals and we win. Today my two goals don’t mean anything, because we go one point and we wanted three.”

Fernandes showed his infuriation after the match when he confronted the fourth official in the tunnel.

Emi Buendia had gone down injured at the death, which meant the match went past its allocated stoppage time. Fernandes claimed Villa were trying to suggest the Argentine had suffered a head injury, despite the fact he was clutching his shoulder, so they could take him off as they had already used their three substitutes.

Fernandes’ final gripe concerns his off-pitch activity, with the Manchester United midfielder recently turning down the offer of a contract extension at Old Trafford.

After the midfielder’s hugely successful first season United chiefs felt Fernandes deserved a salary upgrade, according to The Athletic.

He was offered a new deal in late autumn, but the Portuguese star’s representatives turned this down and talks of a new contract have now been shelved.

Fernandes saw his £50,000-a-week salary at Sporting Lisbon double when he signed for Man United, but his wages do not compare to those of Ronaldo and co.

While Ronaldo is the club’s top earner bringing home a cool £400,000-a-week, David de Gea is on £375,000 and a whole host of stars including Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba earn £200,000.

Fernandes wants parity with his teammates, although United are currently relaxed over the situation as the midfielder is not out of contract at Old Trafford until 2025.