Ten Hag backs Fernandes as capt. after 7-0 rout

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag launched a strong defence of Bruno Fernandes in the wake of his side’s 7-0 thrashing to Liverpool, saying the Portugal midfielder will remain one of his captains at Old Trafford.

Fernandes, 28, has been heavily criticised for his performance at Anfield and has faced calls to be stripped of the armband. Sky Sports pundit and former United defender Gary Neville labelled Fernandes “a disgrace” but Ten Hag is standing by him.

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“I think he is playing a brilliant season and he has played a big role in us being where we are,” Ten Hag told a news conference on Wednesday. “He is an inspiration to the team; everyone makes mistakes and we learn. I have to learn and he will as well.”

“He is intelligent. I’m really pleased he is our player and he is captain when Harry [Maguire] is not playing.”

Asked whether Fernandes would still be captain in the future, Ten Hag said: “Yes, definitely.”

Ten Hag was speaking ahead of United’s Europa League round-of-16 first-leg tie against Real Betis at Old Trafford on Thursday. The Dutchman was joined at the news conference by Marcus Rashford, who rejected claims that United “gave up” during the second half in which they conceded six goals.

“We didn’t give up, that’s nonsense,” Rashford said. “We were unorganised, communication was bad, that’s why we conceded the goals.

“But I believe everyone was trying to get back into the game that much, we came away from the principles too much, the forwards were trying to press as a unit but we weren’t connected with the midfield.

“We were trying to get a grip of the game at 2-0 and 3-0, we were talking but we weren’t in agreement with what to do, it’s happened, we can learn from it and move on. I’m happy and grateful we have another game quickly because we have an opportunity to take a step forward.”

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The defeat was United’s second in all competitions since the World Cup break. Ten Hag’s team face Betis on Thursday followed by a Premier League clash with Southampton on Sunday, and he has urged his players to bounce back quickly.

“We know in a season, setbacks will always be there,” Ten Hag added. “The way it was there has a lot of lessons in it and that can help us for the future, that’s the positive — how negative it is — we were really below average, especially mentally wise.

“We have to take the lesson. After Sunday we got a big lesson, we take that and know we have to move on and look forward. That’s the way we treated it, all the energy, all the focus has to be on the next game.”

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