In team sports, a winning scenario makes everyone look good. A less positive scenario triggers, from the outset, the search for culprits. Let’s talk, then, about Bruno Fernandes.
At Manchester United, the Portuguese player is in the sights of commentators. He was once a hero, but now, not being a villain, he’s getting some flak. And distrust. Is he, after all, worthy of the captain’s armband? For some it is not. And this story attests above all to what sport is and, in particular, football.
Let’s look at the context. Manchester United has been in a dazzling phase, both in terms of results – they won their first trophy in six years a few days ago – and in terms of football performance – which has not been so pleasant at Old Trafford for a long time.
Rashford looked like one of the best in the world, De Gea no longer lends himself to so many mistakes, Shaw took away the desire to hire a new full-back, Casemiro was seen as a savior and even Antony and Weghorst were praised as successful signings.
Two days ago, Liverpool came. And there was a goal conceded. And then two. It’s three. And they were at seven. A 7-0 against the great rival is something that hurts. And everything looks different. Even the captain.
Complains to colleagues
In February 2020, after leaving Sporting, Bruno Fernandes played for the first time for a torn United. The Portuguese player impressed with the intensity with which he played, the way he gave instructions to his colleagues, the commitment to the ball dispute, the vivacity with which he put pressure on the referees and the joy with which he celebrated goals – and he scored a lot, in addition to giving many others to to mark.
In short: in terms of football, personality and posture, he had everything the English considered important to be a good team captain. And he quickly reached that post.
Now, in March 2023, Fernandes is criticized for most of the valences for which he had already been praised. A journey through the sports section of the British press reveals that, at this moment, Bruno Fernandes is a topic.
What is at stake is the way in which the Portuguese strikes out with colleagues who miss passes. Or when they don’t pass him the ball. There is also talk of the way he gives up running at certain moments of the game, especially when it is time to run after his opponents, or even when he seems to question Ten Hag’s substitutions.
From another perspective, Fernandes is also criticized for the theatricalization of injuries and/or alleged infractions suffered – something that the English abhor, even with the players of their teams. The videos below illustrate what is criticized in Portuguese.
“I should never be captain again”
“It was a mess, summarized in what captain Bruno Fernandes was, which has been embarrassing at times. I’m tired of seeing him flailing, whimpering and clutching his face when he’s touched”, was the idea conveyed by Gary Neville, English club legend and current football commentator sky sports.
The scathing Roy Keane also spoke of the subject to Sky: “Fernandes’ body language was shameful. He’s a talented lad and he’s the captain, but his body language, raising his arms and not running back… you wouldn’t be happy to have him in your dressing room”.
Chris Sutton, a former football player and now commentator, also defends BBC a similar thesis: “He should never have the armband on his arm again. Bruno is not the best leader and there are players much more qualified for that, like Casemiro or Varane”.
Bruno Fernandes is in a curious position. On the one hand, he is the leader of a team that, despite the debacle against Liverpool, has even had good times – and a leader is unlikely to be praised in good times. On the other hand, his attitudes on the field mean that some English fans do not see him as a good captain – and that, especially in the less good moments, can be demanded of him. And it’s gone.