Erik ten Hag praised the performance of Bruno Fernandes following Manchester United’s Europa League victory over Real Betis, and claimed the midfielder was ‘the best player on the pitch’.
The Red Devils beat Betis 4-1 in Thursday’s last-16 first leg, with Fernandes getting in on the scoresheet along with Marcus Rashford, Antony and Wout Weghorst. United were in total command at Old Trafford and could even have recorded a bigger victory had they dispatched a number of late chances.
Fernandes, playing more in a central-midfield role, was excellent and produced a number of sublime passes in behind the Betis defence. The performance came just four days after the no.18 was roundly criticised for his role in the 7-0 debacle at Anfield.
But speaking after the Betis win, Ten Hag praised the ‘personality’ of the Portugal international. “I think he was the best player on the pitch. He showed his personality,” said the United manager.
“He played a little bit of a deeper role tonight and I think he did it brilliantly. He was the leader in making the game from the back in possession and making the rhythm. He had a lot of good passes in between the lines and from there we created a lot of chances.”
Fernandes was involved in a clash with Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo during the second half, when the United midfielder slid in and caught the goalkeeper on the shin. Ten Hag said ahead of the game that Fernandes needed to learn from his mistakes, something the former Ajax boss was asked about again after the 4-1 Europa League win.
“It’s his strength, his passion,” said Ten Hag. “But you are right, sometimes he has to control that. He has to bring it, it is his strength and when it’s too much it becomes a weakness, that’s true. He knows that and there are always small margins.”
Asked about the response from his side after the 7-0 loss at the weekend, Ten Hag replied: “We said we had to reset, bounce back and I think we played quite good in the first. We should have been up 3-0 or so, but we made one mistake and we go into half-time 1-1. We bounce back in the second half and we did.”