Bruno Fernandes has an injury problem and could miss Manchester United vs Liverpool this weekend. Here’s what the Reds can expect if he doesn’t play.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that Bruno Fernandes has an injury. The Portugal playmaker is now a doubt for Sunday’s massive clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford.
“Games like Wednesday night [against Atalanta] are always going to bring knocks and bruises,” said Solskjaer, per Sky Sports.
“We do have two or three from that game. Bruno might be one of them that is a doubt, but he’s doing everything he can to be ready.”
United already have a few injury problems as it is. Fred is a doubt after going off early in that Atalanta game, while Marcus Rashford picked up a dead leg.
Anthony Martial hasn’t played since the international break, either, while Raphael Varane is definitely out.
Now, from the way Solskjaer phrased things, we expect Fernandes to play. He certainly doesn’t sound too concerned about potentially missing one of his star players.
But if Fernandes were to miss the game, here’s how we think it would affect things.
Bruno Fernandes injury
United typically play with two sitting midfielders and then a fairly ridiculously attacking front-four. Against Leicester City last week, for instance, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic sat in deep roles while four forwards played ahead.
Pogba – Matic
Greenwood – Fernandes – Sancho
Now, that was a disaster. United lost 4-2 and Solskjaer talked after the game about ‘needing more legs in there’. He adapted against Atalanta, swapping out his midfield two for Fred and Scott McTominay.
McTominay – Fred
Greenwood – Fernandes – Rashford
That worked a little better but United were still vulnerable defensively. The front-four are very advanced, leaving the holding players with a lot to do.
McTominay and Fred need to defend counter-attacks, hold down the middle and cover the wide spaces when full-backs move. For us, it’s asking far too much and United’s system doesn’t work very well.
To the point where we expect Trent Alexander-Arnold, in particular, to have a lot of luck on Sunday if United set up like that. But if Fernandes is out, we’re not sure they will.
We’d expect a midfield three, with Pogba moving back in. That might be bad news for Liverpool as it would make United a lot more solid while still being a counter-attacking threat.
So what should Liverpool do?
We’d be tempted to keep Roberto Firmino as the no.9 if United do this. He’s better at dropping deep than Diogo Jota and would help Liverpool move the ball through midfield.
If United play a midfield two, Jota should find enough space to do that job, while midfielders like Curtis Jones or Naby Keita could push forward. That’s a lot tougher against a three, though.
But really, Fernandes being out just makes United a lot less attacking and creative. It also means they would lack their best high-pressing player. No one at United has pressed more than Fernandes this season.
It would probably lead to a slower game where both teams have half an eye on a draw. United would rely more on the counter and less on pressing Liverpool high without Fernandes.
Obviously we’d prefer United didn’t have their best players but if Liverpool want an open game – and with 22 goals in eight games we imagine they do – this likely isn’t perfect news.