Ten Hag could boldly drop Fernandes by unleashing Man Utd’s 19 y/o “exciting talent”

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Portuguese playmaker Bruno Fernandes has received his fair share of criticism for his performance at Anfield following Manchester United’s embarrassing loss to rivals Liverpool. The usually talismanic player just faltered on the day.

Although Casemiro and Raphael Varane both underwhelmed in that 7-0 thrashing, Fernandes’ performance has likely drawn the greatest attention because of his leadership position. Club veteran and Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville called Fernandes’ performance “embarrassing” and a “disgrace” during commentary.

It has been suggested that the 28-year-old may not be the club’s preferred choice to succeed Harry Maguire as captain in the long run, as the latter man appears destined to leave Old Trafford this summer, after the former Sporting CP star won just three of his nine duels and turned the ball over 14 times.

It is stupid to so immediately write off the excellent job that Fernandes has done at the club over the past three years, particularly given that he has amassed over 100 goal involvements to date in all competitions. Yet, such discussion is maybe anticipated amid the post-mortem of such a crushing loss.

Nevertheless, with the £240k-per-week player having started 39 games already this season on all fronts, it may be the perfect time to remove the masterful midfielder from the firing line ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-16 match with Real Betis.

The main question, though, is who would step in to replace the seasoned player if manager Erik ten Hag were to do so. The best possibilities, Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek, both have extensive injury layoffs.

As a result, the former Ajax manager could be persuaded to give talented 19-year-old Zidane Iqbal a chance for the La Liga team’s visit, since the player has only made one first-team appearance for the club thus far.

Who in the starting XI could step in for Fernandes?
The fact that the Iraqi international has already played two more senior matches for his nation than for his club is certainly unusual. The playmaker’s lone appearance for the Red Devils came in the Champions League quarterfinal match against BSC Young Boys back in December 2021.

Despite being “extremely excellent” on the team’s preseason tour last summer, according to BBC Sport’s Simon Stone, Iqbal has not had the chance to demonstrate his value at the first-team level, leading to rumors that the young player was looking to leave on loan in January.

The Manchester native must be given the opportunity to play under Ten Hag in the upcoming months if no such departure occurs. The midweek match against Manuel Pellegrini’s team is undoubtedly the perfect opportunity to return to the action.

The 5 foot 11 kid has been hailed as a “very exciting talent” by Manchester Evening News journalist George Smith. Sky Sports reporter Melissa Reddy revealed the following about the prodigy last year:

“Zidane Iqbal has a ton of technical expertise, talent, and knowledge, but more significantly, he also has the personality to go along with it. He demands the ball, moves, scans, never hides, and isn’t afraid to try to carry out what he believes to be the proper choice.

Iqbal was particularly excellent in Monday’s Premier League 2 loss to Chelsea, making 11 appearances at underage level this season. MEN columnist Steven Railston noted that Iqbal and fellow wonderkid Kobbie Mainoo had “shined” against the Blues.

Iqbal would appear to be more than happy to play in Fernandes’ advanced seat, despite the fact that he has generally played a more deep-lying role. The versatile ace can also play on the flanks.

Although Ten Hag has mainly resisted the need to switch things up during his time at Old Trafford so far, Sunday’s disaster may force the Dutchman to do so against Betis.

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    Muoghalu Obinna

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