Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not concerned by Bruno Fernandes’ waning impact in Manchester United’s attack, believing his team-mates can profit from the midfielder’s mere presence.
Fernandes has not provided a goal or an assist in his past three appearances in all competitions, each of which have seen United held to goalless draws.
Prior to his mini barren run, the Portugal international had averaged 3.8 shots and 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes, enjoying 83.4 touches, including 3.6 in the opposition box.
Over the three games since scoring and assisting against Newcastle United, he has averaged two shots and 2.8 chances per 90, touching the ball in the area at the same rate but seeing his overall involvement drop to 72.4 touches.
It is only a slight drop-off from Fernandes’ lofty standards, but combined with United’s underwhelming run – they have not had a single ‘big chance’ since their two against Newcastle – it has prompted discussion.
Solskjaer is not worried, however, calling on his other United stars to step up, starting against rivals Manchester City on Sunday.
“We expect everyone to be a leader, everyone to take that responsibility,” Solskjaer said.
“Of course it might be Bruno, but I know that teams are trying to man-mark him at times and that’s not a dig at anyone.
— Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) March 2, 2021
“That’s just that sometimes in football they try to stop your best player. And someone else will have to step forward.
“Bruno might find a position, make space for others, create. He has created chances for others even when he has not touched the ball. And you see others have created chances for Bruno when they’ve not touched the ball.
“It’s about the movement and creating space for your team-mate and taking that responsibility.
“We have had big moments in big games recently. Chances that we would normally put away and then everyone is rosy, everyone says we are the best thing since sliced bread.
“The away game against Chelsea wasn’t far away from being almost a perfect away game. We should have had a penalty, we should have got the last counter-attack, one last pass away from winning the game.
“It is about taking the big moments and having some luck in the big moments.”
Since Fernandes made his United debut in February 2020, he has been involved in 54 goals in all competitions, ranking third across Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues behind only Robert Lewandowski (74) and Lionel Messi (60).
Only that superstar duo and former United sensation Cristiano Ronaldo have attempted more shots than Fernandes’ 202.
Meanwhile, he tops the charts for chances created (158) over that span, just ahead of City’s Kevin De Bruyne (156).