Why Man Utd must build around Fernandes following FA Cup triumph


INEOS and co. are going to find it difficult to relieve Erik ten Hag of his duties following Manchester United's 2-1 FA Cup final win over Manchester City on Saturday. Reports prior the Wembley showpiece suggested that no matter the result, the Dutchman would be sacked and a new man brought in. Ten Hag was his defiant self following victory over the defending Premier League champions, stating: "If they don’t want me anymore, I’ll go somewhere else and win trophies because that’s what I’ve done my whole career." 


Nevertheless, if Ten Hag is replaced this summer, he'll depart with his head held high. The former Ajax boss has endured his critics during his two years at Old Trafford but a Carabao Cup and FA Cup winners' medal to his name is impressive to say the least. Ten Hag used the same 4-2-4-0 system implemented at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season against City once more, though suffice to say the formation had greater effect in London at the weekend. 


The system sees Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes act as the central forwards with the latter benefitting with the freedom to either operate as the most advanced player or dropping into space between the midfield and defence. This worked perfectly against City on Saturday. Indeed, it was Fernandes who provided the assist for Kobbie Mainoo's 39th-minute winner over the weekend. The Portuguese star was picked out by Alejandro Garnaco and while most players would opt to shoot, the 29-year-old showed impressive vision and awareness to play a deft pass into Mainoo to slot past Stefan Ortega. 


That assist came from one of five key passes in the FA Cup final. Fernandes, meanwhile, made at least 17 more key passes (31) than any other player in the competition this season. It follows on from Fernandes' fine chance creation haul in the Premier League, where the United captain made more key passes (114) than any other player in the division. While the Portugal international can at times leave fans tearing their hair out - only Joachim Andersen (442) made more inaccurate passes than Fernandes (394) of outfielders in England's top tier this term - the pros far outweigh the cons. 



A player of Fernandes' skillset will often rank highly for this particular metric as he looks to play more risky passes than seek to keep things safe, and this desire to create for teammates is a quality that should be lauded. What the FA Cup final win further highlighted, though, is that whoever is in charge at Old Trafford next season - be it Ten Hag or otherwise - needs to further assemble a squad that maximises Fernandes' strengths. 


Even for United's openness, there is the makings of a solid frontline with Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund two young forward options that would benefit from a player of Fernandes' ilk providing the ammunition. However, United are far from the finished product in the final third. Fernandes' eight league assists came from seven different players and the struggle to establish a consistent understanding with another teammate meant his chances weren't really capitalised upon. 


With that, investment is still needed in this United squad in what is a huge understatement. A right winger in place of Marcus Rashford or Antony would benefit the FA Cup winners, while another midfielder to partner Mainoo is also high on the wishlist. Investment in both areas would be a huge boost for Fernandes and United as a whole. Even as Fernandes turns 30 in September, building the attack around the former Sporting man would benefit a youthful forwardline to help usher in the next era for United. 


Ten Hag's future may be up in the air but one certainty should be that the club target players that'll suit Fernandes' style of play. If they are to build upon Saturday's success ahead of next season, then the captain needs to be the heartbeat of the team and providing Fernandes with the right personnel in key areas of the pitch will significantly improve United's chances of another memorable campaign.

Why Man Utd must build around Fernandes following FA Cup triumph