December 8, 2021

Why Bruno let Rashford take pen; VDB stakes claim

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Bruno Fernandes explained why he gave up the chance of a hat-trick in Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Istanbul Basaksehir, as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he was happy for his players to “share the penalties around”.

Fernandes had opened the scoring in the Champions League clash with a stunner in the seventh minute, before converting from close range with just 19 minutes gone.

The Portugal midfielder was then handed the opportunity to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Marcus Rashford was bundled over inside the box by Boli Bolingoli – but despite initially clutching the ball, stepped aside, allowing the England striker to cap an emphatic half from the hosts.

Marcus Rashford eventually dispatches the penalty to make it 3-0
Image: Marcus Rashford eventually dispatches the penalty to make it 3-0

“Of course every player wants to do a hat-trick but after the game in the Premier League, I told ‘Rashy’ the next one he would take,” Fernandes said after the game.

“I remembered that – and also because he’s one of the top scorers in the Champions League, I thought it would be important for him there to take that confidence.

He added to BT Sport: “But it doesn’t matter who takes the penalties, the most important is scoring.”

It was the 30th penalty Manchester United have been awarded in 75 games since the start of last season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he had no issues with his players sharing the responsibility.

Solskjaer said: “Bruno is very confident, Marcus is a very good penalty-taker as well; if Bruno feels he wants to give it to Marcus, so be it. Anthony (Martial) had one against RB Leipzig so why not? They can share them around.”

Fernandes has been involved in 34 goals in 35 games in all competitions for Man Utd (21 goals, 13 assists)
Image: Fernandes has been involved in 34 goals in 35 games in all competitions for Man Utd (21 goals, 13 assists)

Asked if he ever gets surprised by Fernandes’ contribution, Solskjaer said in his press conference: “Not really, no.

“Of course we see him every day in training. We knew what we were going to get when we got Bruno to the team. He’s a player who likes to take risks. He likes to create chances, he likes to score goals.

“He’s a winner, he wants the team to win and he wants the team to do well. I think it shows today that he can do more than just take penalties.”

Van de Beek impresses – will he keep place?

Donny van de Beek impressed in midfield alongside Fred
Image: Donny van de Beek impressed in midfield alongside Fred

Despite struggling for playing time in the Premier League, Donny van de Beek started in United’s midfield for the Champions League for the third straight game, and impressed with a man-of-the-match performance.

Solskjaer says both he and Edinson Cavani are adjusting to their roles, with Van de Beek playing alongside defensive midfielder Fred, but able to drift forward.

“The two are getting used to how we want them to play – Donny can play in different positions and Edinson is a good old fashioned number nine and we haven’t had that for a while and I was happy with how Anthony [Martial] played off the left,” Solskjaer told BT Sport.

Van de Beek told MUTV after the game: “It was really good. Some games I play No 10, sometimes the coach needs me in the control position, that’s fine for me, sometimes in Ajax I was also playing in that position so it’s okay.”

Analysis: Van de Beek’s quality not the issue

Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand:

Van de Beek showed a quality on the ball in midfield, and perhaps most importantly, an urgency that United have missed in attempting to move through the lines. Once again, the Dutchman proved that quality isn’t the issue here.

Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trust Van de Beek in that position in the Premier League? The answer so far has been a resounding no. The control United have shown in their last two Champions League home games is a rarity in the Premier League, so protection takes precedence.

In fact, Tuesday’s game summed up the Van de Beek conundrum. He won’t budge Fernandes out of the team anytime soon, so the only slot available becomes defensive midfield. On the ball, United improve with Van de Beek in the side, but against stronger opposition his inclusion would leave them more open without it.

It’s a fine balancing act, and Solskjaer has shown little sign of wanting to swap in risk for solidity. Scott McTominay should return for United’s trip to Southampton on Sunday, and the dilemma is likely to go on.

No complacency from Solskjaer

The 4-1 triumph – capped by a late Dan James goal – means Solskjaer’s side only need a point from their final two
matches to qualify for the last 16, but next week’s home match against PSG and the trip to RB Leipzig means the manager is not getting ahead of himself.

“The group is still very open,” the Norwegian said.

“We’ve got nine, two on six points [PSG and RB Leipzig] and Basaksehir on three, so we still need points to go through.

Manchester United need just a point to qualify from Group H
Image: Manchester United need just a point to qualify from Group H

“One probably should be enough and three probably gives you the win, so hopefully against PSG we can secure the points we need but that’s another matter.

“Of course I thought the whole team played really well. We found our positions and the tempo with the ball was really good.

“We deserved the win, of course, after that first half. Second half is always different and more difficult to keep the tempo when you’re winning 3-0.”

Pogba update, Solskjaer’s wait on duo

Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof were substituted with problems in a move Solskjaer hopes was precautionary.

“Hopefully, they’ll be ready for the weekend but we’re not sure. It’s a back problem for Victor and Aaron had an ankle problem so there was no point risking any more swelling to it.”

Solskjaer also gave a brief pre-match update on Paul Pogba, who was absent from the squad.

“His ankle is swollen up. He trained [on Monday] but didn’t feel right and the confirmation was there [Tuesday] morning.”