Ten Hag's appreciation for Bruno and Rapha

Wednesday 28 February 2024 22:59

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has praised Raphael Varane and Bruno Fernandes for showing such commitment in proving their fitness and availability for the Emirates FA Cup fifth-round win at Nottingham Forest.

Both players were flagged as doubts by the boss in his pre-match MUTV interview but travelled south to take part in the encounter at The City Ground.

Varane helped keep a clean sheet with a typically polished display, while Fernandes rode a few heavy knocks to supply the assist for Casemiro's headed winner in the 89th minute with a free-kick.

Such a warrior mentality may be required as United look to reach Wembley again, after three visits to the stadium in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup last term, Ten Hag's maiden season in charge.

Raphael Varane enjoyed the win - and the clean sheet.

"It's not easy, especially in the back four," said the boss at his press conference. "We have serious problems. I was very happy Rapha fought to play this game and also Bruno. He had a very bad injury as well. He fought to be part of this game. I'm very pleased for him, how important he is and to have an assist on the goal of Casemiro."

When asked if Bruno needed a painkilling injection, the manager replied: "I don't go into that because also you saw Forest were targeting him. So I don't go to tell what it was but it was a serious injury. When you see that maybe they criticise him on social media, it's pathetic. It can't be.

"He has a serious injury, he continued to play on Saturday and now also he fought to be part of this game. He has a very high pain threshold. Last year, he also did something similar. He showed his leadership, expresses his character and it's very good when you are a leader."

Ten Hag did admit he was perhaps being a little tough on Forest by saying they targeted his no.8 but he did stress how they tight they were on him and that there were a number of fouls on the midfielder, who was also grabbed around the throat by Felipe in the closing stages.

Although there was a VAR check, the incident went unpunished but Fernandes had a wry smile as he helped the Reds get over the line to set up a quarter-final date with Liverpool next month.