Man Utd over-relying on Bruno Fernandes as Casemiro and co left behind

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Bruno Fernandes has been the creative hub for Manchester United under Erik ten Hag this season, as the stats show just how influential the Portuguese midfielder has been and why his potential absence against Tottenham on Thursday will be a worry for the Dutch boss. The playmaker had been seen with a protective boot on his foot after reaching the FA Cup final on penalties over Brighton, but Ten Hag did ease supporters’ worries over a long-term injury.

“There are some players who are unavailable,” said the United boss ahead of the trip to Spurs. “Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane. We have to see how Bruno Fernandes is, because we don’t know yet. It’s a question mark. But I think, for the rest, we are quite okay.”

Regarding the boot Fernandes was wearing, Ten Hag added: “It’s more often that with players, we protect them. It’s prevention, but it has to settle down. We have seen he played a full game and it happened in the first half. But tomorrow is a quick turnaround, so we have to see what is possible.”

Ten Hag will be wary of travelling to north London without his creator-in-chief, however, as only Kevin De Bruyne has created more big chances in the entire Premier League than the Portugal star. The Manchester City midfielder has set up a huge opportunity for his team-mates on 28 occasions so far this season, with Fernandes trailing in second place on 23.

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The worry for United and Ten Hag is that the Red Devil with the second-highest amount of big chances created is Casemiro with six – as 35 players in the division are creating good chances at a higher rate than United’s second-biggest creator.

The stat will not please Ten Hag despite Fernandes’ efforts, as he will demand more from the remainder of the team – especially the likes of Marcus Rashford, Antony and Jadon Sancho. Christian Eriksen will have hoped to be near the top of the list when it comes to shot creation, but the injury that kept him out for over two months will have hampered his chances.

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Luke Shaw warned United of over-relying on Fernandes over two years ago and it appears that they have not heeded his warning, something Ten Hag may look to fix in the summer transfer window.

“We as a team need to take some pressure off him because he’s doing a lot,” Shaw said in December 2020. “Of course he likes doing a lot but us as other players need to step up as well.

“Sometimes it looks like if Bruno doesn’t play well we struggle so we need to improve that and have more players stepping up to the plate.”

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