Erik ten Hag brands Bruno Fernandes critics ‘pathetic’ in defence of under-fire Man Utd captain

Nottingham Forest's Brazilian defender Felipe (R) holds Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes by the neck
Forest defender Felipe gets to grips with Bruno Fernandes - Getty Images

Erik ten Hag branded Bruno Fernandes’s critics “pathetic” and revealed the Manchester United captain played through injury at the weekend and during the FA Cup win at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night.

Footage of Fernandes in Saturday’s defeat by Fulham went viral after the Portugal international went down clutching his ankle and seemed to quickly recover to ask for the ball, but his manager insists he suffered an injury that could have ruled him out against Forest.

Ten Hag also believes Forest players targeted Fernandes, 29, during the 1-0 win which was settled by Casemiro’s header one minute from full-time. The United skipper was seen limping away from Old Trafford after Wednesday night’s victory.

“You saw that Forest were targeting him,” said Ten Hag. “It was a serious injury and then I see they criticise him, it is pathetic, it can’t be. He has a serious injury and he continued to play on Saturday and fought to be part of this game.

“He has a very high pain threshold. He did something similar in the semi-final last year and that shows his character and that shows as a leader and flows into the team. There were many fouls on him. You see when he was getting the ball they were really tight on him.”

Raphael Varane was also an injury doubt but declared himself available for the fifth-round tie, with Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw ruled out from Ten Hag’s first-choice players. But Ten Hag believes he has stumbled on the right combination from his fit defenders.

“It was hard to line up, especially in the back four it was a puzzle and finally we have found the right formation,” he said. “We created chances but also allowed them counters but after the first five minutes of the second half we took control and kept the ball longer and we got switches of play.

“So I was very pleased in the second half and most of all very pleased with the spirit and the desire.”

Marcus Rashford struggled as United’s striker in the absence of Rasmus Hojlund, as he did against Fulham. Alan Shearer, as a pundit on the BBC, highlighted his body language.

“Come on Marcus, get up. Stop waving your arms around,” Shearer said. “You’ve got to do better.

“I don’t like his body language at times. He’s trying to send a message out to the fans, it’s not my fault. You as an individual have to take responsibility now and again for your actions on the pitch. Get up and get on with it.

“Marcus Rashford still has to send out the correct message to the fans with his body language and at times this season he hasn’t done that. He is getting frustrated.”

Marcus Rashford looks dejected against Forest
Alan Shearer was scathing about Marcus Rashford's body language - Getty Images/Daniel Chesterton

After reaching the final last season, Ten Hag is now two matches from another showpiece at Wembley but faces rivals Liverpool next.

“It’s big, we want to win every competition so every team is big, the fans deserve a team that is fighting, that is acting as a team and showing passion and resilience and they showed it today,” he said.

Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “It’s frustrating to lose it at the end but the way we played was an improvement.

“We have to improve on details, which is still punishing us, but the improvement is clear. We have to work harder and be more clinical as the results are not coming.”

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