Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag hailed a captain’s performance from Bruno Fernandes after the Portuguese kept his nerve to seal a 3-2 comeback win over Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag backed Fernandes’ leadership skills ahead of the game amid claims from some pundits, including Micah Richards, that the 28-year-old is too “emotional” to make a good captain.
The Dutchman was rewarded with an outstanding performance from his midfielder as United fought back to win despite trailing by two goals inside four minutes.
In an performance full of invention and creativity, Fernandes created the equaliser for Casemiro before driving home the match-winning penalty after Marcus Rashford had been fouled by Danilo.
“In all the aspects, he played a very good game at the highest level,” said Ten Hag.
“He was keeping calm, with the emotions under control. He was brilliant in the attacking [play] and made the difference. I am very happy with his performance.”
The victory was particularly notable given it was the first time United had fallen two behind in a game so quickly in the Premier League era.
Though clear questions can be raised about how they fell behind so meekly, criticism could be levelled at Forest for failing to take their chances whilst they were still in front, and doubt perhaps cast on the decision to award the home side their spot-kick, Ten Hag preferred to focus his post-match thoughts around his side’s character.
“There is big spirit and energy,” he said.
“We’ve seen this team can bounce back. If you have such a [poor] start, you need to get over it. It’s not easy, but compliments to the team.
“We have the personality. In certain moments we can definitely improve, but in general this team has the character to bounce back all the time.”