Manchester United's season-opening victory over Leeds United signaled the start of a thrilling year for the club. United cruised to a 5-1 victory over Everton at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat-trick and Paul Pogba registering four assists.
A thrilling match that featured United's world-class players was on display. When you consider that United's best performance of the season - that match against Leeds — was organized by individuals, it is ironic that this would eventually prove to be this team's undoing when outcomes began to fall apart. As the weeks continued, there would be no sense of unity on the field of play.
When Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in the summer of 2017, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left with little choice but to call for his team to play in a more expansive way. Players made an attempt to respond to that desire, but they were poorly coached and tactically neglected, and Solskjaer's fate seemed to be sealed. The season of Manchester United has never recovered from those dismal opening few months of the season.
Throughout the season, there has been no shortage of mishaps, and Manchester United's players have justifiably received unparalleled criticism in the wake of each and every setback. This season, United have equaled their longest period of time without a trophy in 40 years, and there is nowhere to hide at the club anymore. Even the most invincible of Manchester United's players is feeling the strain, and Fernandes is among those who are feeling the strain.
At retrospect, the crowd in the Stretford End chanting "BRUNO! BRUNO! BRUNO!" as Fernandes went off the pitch with a match ball after the first game of the season seems like a distant memory. Even though Fernandes made an early impression after signing for Manchester United in January of this year, and he has continued to produce consistently outstanding performances, he is not immune from criticism during this season..
While David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the standout performers for Manchester United in an otherwise disappointing season, Fernandes has nonetheless had a solid campaign on an individual level. Fernandes's nine goals and 14 assists in 37 appearances would seem that there should be no concerns about the midfielder, but some match-going supporters are growing impatient with the player.
At Old Trafford, you can still feel the immense support for Fernandes that he received from those very same fans. For the past two seasons, Fernandes has been the finest player on the field for Manchester United.. When his team needs him the most, he has developed into a maverick-like figure who comes through. He was a complete talisman, and he was the driving force behind United's deceptive development during his time there (Europa League final and finishing runners-up in the Premier League).
But it appears that the switch to a 4-3-3 style implemented by Ralf Rangnick has hampered him a little. When Fernandes was playing as No.10, he captivated the hearts and minds of the fans that saw him. Instead, he is being urged to exercise greater discipline.
Manchester City and Liverpool have demonstrated that a midfield three must be well-balanced, and United is woefully lacking in that department. The man who used to play in a midfield trio hasn't been the same since, and his wastefulness in possession has become an issue for the team. Fernandes has also had to deal with a greater amount of defensive responsibility. Fernandes' body language has already revealed what he thinks of this situation.
Several members of Fernandes' follower base have become irritated by his petulance and inclination to roll around on the ground. When United is winning, those traits are overlooked, but this season they have not been, and the frustration of the supporters has grown with each defeat.
Fernandes is supposed to be the player that United fans can rely on to perform at their best on the most important of occasions. In this season's biggest games, he's remained anonymous - as has been the case for the majority of the squad, to be honest - and was frequently seen rolling around or moaning to the ref.
According to some, Fernandes' anger at having a diminished impact on games is the reason behind this. Due to his outstanding performances since joining the club, making him one of the most talented players in the Premier League, it would be understandable for him to vent his frustrations on the field now that he is facing difficulties. The good news is that it would be absurd to bet against Fernandes's ability to overcome hardship of that magnitude.
A quality coach will help Fernandes, which is something he hasn't had the opportunity to do in Manchester. To succeed in a three-man midfield, Fernandes must first be shown how to do it successfully, after which he will most likely return to the player that United supporters have come to love.
Fernandes' petulance has become an issue for the team at the moment, and he is not himself in the three-man midfield. Both of those difficulties are readily remedied, and Fernandes should be back to his instrumental best by the start of the following season.