Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows the time will come when he will have to rest Bruno Fernandes. Maybethat is why the Manchester United managerwas so blunt when asked about how he will go about it in the coming months.
‘Very important’ seems like an understatement when describing Fernandes’ role in thisteam. He makes them tick; he isthe glue that holds performances together, a leader to drag them over the line and, most importantly, a goal machine with nine goals and five assists in 11 starts in all competitionsthis season.
“Bruno is not going to be able to play every single game, that’s for sure,” Solskjaer said prior to the Champions League win against Istanbul Basaksehirin midweek. But when will he get a proper rest? Solskjaer said he brings him off to ease his work load but there’s not much truth in that argument.
Including his debut on February 1 against Wolves, Manchester United have had 37 competitive fixtures across all competitions since Bruno joined from Sporting CP.Last season there were 23and 14 this campaign.
Factoring intwo lots of extra-time -once in the FA Cup and another in the Europa League -it means that since his first appearance,United have played3,390 minutes of football and Fernandes has played 2,763 of those.
That equates to 82 per cent of all minutessince February. Just once has hebeen left out of the squad altogether, on one other occasion he was an unused substitute and three moretimes he has come off the bench.
Aside from thosefive fixtures, the Portugal international has played the bulk of the minutes for Solskjaer. He is the focal point of the team andwhile the Norwegian may have said he would simply ‘take him off’ to give him a rest the reality is very different.
In the 35 games he has featured in, Fernandes has been brought off 13 times and only five times has that been with more than 20 minutes left on the clock. On the majority of occasions he has been withdrawn withless than 10 minutes remaining.
If he is really going to be given proper time off,United are going to have to start winning games and winning them quickly, something that they’ve not been able to do so farthis season.
While his form and energy levels are no problem for Solskjaer at the moment, with such a relentless schedule there will come a time when the 26-year-old needs a rest.
But when? Even in last season’s Europa League fixtures he was deemed too important to be rotated. So how will Solskjaerdecide which game he can sit out? Much of that is going to be down to the form of Bruno’steam-mates.
United looked a different side once the Portugal international was brought off against Basaksehir shortly before the hour mark on Tuesday. Their control of the game started to diminish and their creativity dipped.
In the span of that half houreveryone was reminded just how pivotal Fernandes is for this side, never mind the fact he had earlier scored two goals.
One alternative for SolskjaerisDonny van de Beek, whoshone brightly in thatChampions League win. Although he was deployed in a deeper role alongside Fred, he has the capabilities to operate higher up the pitch and could be a viable option for the time when it comes time to rotate Fernandes.
Solskjaer said the €55 million (£47m) midfielderhas the right temperament and mentality to accept being benched from time to time. “I wasn’t looking forward to telling Bruno he was rested against Leipzig but there was absolutely no problem, same with Marcus,” the United boss said of the previous occasion when he left Bruno out.
“They know this season is challenging that’s how we build this team and the culture of the team. It’s about the team and not the individuals and I think Bruno has proven that over and over.”
While that is the mindset of the player, the reality is at the moment the teamis structured around him. In the 10 months he has been at the club he has done exactly what was asked of him and made himself undroppable.
United have another 10 games before the end of the year and in current form Solskjaer will not want to contemplate leaving him out, nor can he afford to.
Source : goal.com