Fernandes: We'll enjoy the challenge

Tuesday 28 November 2023 14:31

Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes insists the focus is on the task in hand as the Reds bid to remain in Europe's elite competition.

The Portuguese playmaker is refusing to contemplate the prospect of not qualifying from Champions League Group A and instead wants to concentrate on beating Galatasaray in Istanbul tomorrow night, which is the essential next step towards survival.

Sitting alongside his manager Erik ten Hag at the pre-match press conference inside Carrington, Fernandes also fielded questions on delegating his penalty-taking duties to Marcus Rashford in Sunday's win at Everton, the prodigious talents of Alejandro Garnacho and external criticism of his captaincy style.

Here's everything Bruno had to say at the briefing, which you can watch in full below...

Press conference: Galatasaray v United Video

Press conference: Galatasaray v United

Erik ten Hag and Bruno Fernandes face questions on injuries, penalties, Mainoo and more, before Galatasaray away…

Bruno, the club, while you've been here, have worked so hard to get into the Champions League and you've not always managed it. How much of a blow would it be if you didn't qualify for the knockout round?
“Obviously, for us, it's really important to be in the competition. We want to be in the middle of the best clubs in Europe. As I said, it's obviously disappointing if we don't go through, but I'm not thinking about that at the moment. I'm just focused on the game against Galatasaray, because the only way we can go through is winning against Galatasaray and going to the last game with a chance to go through. So our focus at the moment is on winning this game, knowing that we play against such a good opponent away from home, where the atmosphere will be intense. But I think everyone, as a kid, you enjoy and you want to be in these kind of stages, big stadiums, big atmospheres, so you just have to enjoy the challenge.”

You gave Marcus the penalty. Was that something in your mind before the game, or was that just in the moment?
“No, it was in the moment. I talk about this already. I thought that Marcus needed his first goal, he is such an important player for us and he hadn't scored in the Premier League [since September]. Last season he was our top scorer, so we know that he’s important for us, he’s someone that can score a lot of goals. And I think for strikers and wingers sometimes it’s about getting his first goal and after that they're going to get on the straight to score more and more goals. And we need our strikers and our wingers to be in the positions to score goals and to have the confidence to score them.

“We have a list of penalty takers, and their number in the order of penalty takers - who is going to be the first, second or third. First being myself because in the past few years it has always been me. But when I arrived at the club, Marcus was the penalty taker. He was injured when I arrived so I started taking penalties. He was always respectful on the side, saying ‘you're doing it now, you're doing it well, so keep going.’ At moments he had his moment to take the penalty and sometimes we’ve had moments to give the ball to each other. I think it's not important who takes it, because I think the manager puts a paper out there with the penalty takers and the two names for that game was me and Marcus. So, it's just about deciding who’s going to take that. It doesn't have to be always Bruno. It doesn't have to be always Marcus. But it has to be someone where we are 100 per cent sure that the ball is going to go in. We are never 100 per cent sure because it's 50/50 every time. I could have taken the penalty and missed and we will never know. But the thing is that Marcus took it and he scored.”

Bruno, obviously it was great leadership to give the penalty to Marcus at the weekend. So is it frustrating for you when outsiders sometimes critique your captaincy style, when it's clear on the pitch that you're always giving everything to the team?
“Obviously you don't like it. You don't like to be criticised. I think everyone is the same. But at the same time, I have to do the best, or what I think is the best, for the team. I'm not always right, but in my head at the moment, it is the right choice so I do it. So, I think it's quite normal when you play for Man United that you're going to be criticised even if you do well or bad, if you do the right thing or the wrong thing. So I just have to deal with that. It's kind of normal since I arrived at the club. In the beginning everything was perfect because when you arrive and in the first game, if you do something different to anyone else is doing, it’s going to be all flowers. But after that, I understand that it's going to be [tough], the tough part is always coming after the first games, because when the results not coming, when the performances are not as everyone expected to be, and because the expectations are always higher and higher. And I know that since I arrived at the club obviously, my numbers made myself a target. So not keeping the same numbers of assists or goals is sometimes a problem for me in the criticism because they're going to take from there. Now it’s the captaincy but you know it's going to be always something. But my focus is on the team, on the staff, on everyone that works here with me day by day. I think they are pretty happy with me. The way I am, it's the same since I arrived at the club. It’s not changed by being the captain. I don't think it has to change. I’m really open with everyone so no one until now has had a problem with me. So I think I should keep it like that. Everyone here is pretty happy with my leadership, so I think I have to keep the same way.”

Obviously, Alejandro scored one of the best goals of the season against Everton. Does that give everyone a lift ahead of a game as important as Galatasaray?
“No, it gave a lift against Everton! But I hope he can do it again against Galatasaray. It will be amazing to have another goal like that. But obviously we expect moments like that from Garnacho. He is a special talent that can have these kinds of moments in games that can help us to win games. We have such young players in front that in moments they can change the game to our side. I think we had it in the past, even like most recently with Scott against Brentford at home when, not being a striker, he came in and had that moment inside of the box as a striker, the killer instinct that gives you the win. You know, you need these kind of special things sometimes to win games and Garna has done it many times. Both Antony and Anthony Martial are capable to do it. Pellistri is also capable to do it. Rasmus also can do it and often us from behind as midfielders and defenders. In some moment, we can have a ball where we can decide the game and we have to take it.”

Has Alejandro been practising these bicycle kicks in training and do you think he has the mentality to become one of the best players in the world?
“I don't know if he's been training that. It's not going to be good for his back! But I think as I said, yes, he has that special talent for big moments to be decisive. But I'm more happy for his work off the ball against Everton. It was, for me, the best game he has done until now. It was amazing and I think when he can put together that with his qualities, to score goals and help the team up front, he is going to be such a good player. I think he is already a great player, but I think for his age and for his talent, he can be much better than he actually is already.”