“A pleasure to work with him” - matchwinner Bruno Fernandes playing through the pain barrier for Ten Hag at Man United

Man Utd 1-0 Aston Villa

Bruno Fernandes scored a vital winning goal for Manchester United against Aston Villa on Sunday in the Premier League, as the Portugal midfielder admitted he is not at full fitness for the Red Devils.

Fernandes struck five minutes before half time to give United three points which hugely boosted their hopes of securing a top four finish and returning to Champions League football next season.

United’s victory over Villa means they are 7 points clear of 5th placed Liverpool with one game in-hand. After a season spent competing in the Europa League, qualifying for the Champions League is essential for Erik ten Hag’s side and Fernandes is considered a key element for the Dutchman’s side.

“He [Bruno] is so tough,” Ten Hag said after the Villa win. “A couple of weeks ago, there was questioning about his captaincy, it’s crazy, because he is such a big leader by example.

“He gives so much energy to the team, besides his smartness, his determination, his passion and his resilience. So, yeah, I think this team are so happy. We need such players if you want to win games and if you want to win trophies.

“He can play several roles and also, in that perspective, you need players like Bruno to be successful.

“We have seen against Everton, he can play a deeper role and he brings passes. As a [no.] 10, we know what he can [do], but also from the side.

“First, he’s a very good presser, he understands the moment when to close down, when to bring the opponent in trouble. He knows also when to run back, to track back, and to close passing lines to close opponents.

“So even if our press gets beat, he knows when to get back and then, of course, he can play in between the lines and give the pass, but also, he can for himself get behind the lines.

“He has so many skills and it’s a pleasure to work with players like him.”

Fernandes has a remarkable fitness record throughout his career. Indeed recent investigations from journalists suggest the Portuguese has never missed a match during his time as a professional through a physical problem other than illness. Having received a knock against Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend, the Portuguese is currently playing below full capacity, as he confessed in his post-match interview.

“I’m happy to never be in in a condition that doesn’t make me get out of games," he said. "But, obviously, I had a knock in the FA Cup semi-final and that still hurts a little bit. But I can play. I can still help the team and when the manager needs me.

“I will be available for the team to help because I think it’s important to me to play as much as I can. But obviously, I want to try to be in the best condition and try to not get ill and everything like that. Trying to eat healthy enough to be in the best conditions to play every game.”

By Sean Gillen