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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Why Bruno Fernandes is suspended vs Liverpool and how Man Utd can replace him –

Manchester United’s 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth came with the added kicker of Bruno Fernandes being handed a one-game Premier League ban for yellow card accumulation.

The club captain could not stop himself picking up a fifth league booking of the season in the 84th minute of the embarrassing loss, with referee Peter Bankes handing the Portugal international a booking for dissent.

It means Fernandes will sit out United’s trip to Liverpool next Sunday, when they will hope to avoid a third successive thrashing at Anfield having been beaten 7-0 and 4-0 in their two most recent trips.

Man Utd last won a league game at Liverpool’s famous home ground in 2016, when Wayne Rooney scored the only goal of the match in the 78th minute. They have lost four of their last seven away games against the Reds, picking up three goalless draws but scoring just once in total.

Fernandes’ absence will be another headache for Ten Hag, who has already had to contort his squad into every shape possible due to a mass of injuries so far this campaign. However, the Red Devils first have a huge game in the Champions League to navigate.

Can Bruno Fernandes play against Bayern Munich in the Champions League?

Fernandes will be free to face Bayern Munich / Marcel Engelbrecht – firo sportphoto/GettyImages

Fernandes is free to play in the Champions League on Tuesday night as Man Utd attempt to jump from fourth to second in Group A.

They face an already qualified Bayern Munich outfit that suffered a shock 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. The German giants may be vulnerable and Thomas Tuchel could look to rest some of his stars, but United’s fate remains in the hands of others as they need the fixture between Copenhagen and Galatasaray to also end in a draw for them to have any hope of reaching the last 16.

Fernandes has chipped in with two goals and two assists in five group stage games so far and more contributions in the final third will be needed in midweek if United are to continue playing in Europe’s elite club competition.

How Man Utd can replace Bruno Fernandes vs Liverpool

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League

Fernandes was labelled a “disgrace” at Anfield last season / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Fernandes has not always received rave reviews during Man Utd’s trips to Liverpool and Anfield since he moved to England in 2020. Gary Neville certainly wasn’t impressed during the 7-0 thrashing earlier in 2023.

He told Sky Sports: “That first 40 minutes was what I would call a classic away performance at Anfield. Manchester United weathered the storm and it looked like they were going to get that goal and go ahead at half-time.

“The second-half has been an absolute disgrace, a shambles. They have not been epitomised more than Bruno Fernandes, who has been embarrassing – a shambles – in this game.”

The Portugal international’s suspension could be seen as a plus in that regard, given he was seen feigning injury, appealing for unlikely penalties, acting petulantly with officials and asking to be substituted during that heavy defeat.

Man Utd potential front four lineups vs Liverpool

(4-2-3-1): Mainoo, Amrabat; Antony, McTominay, Garnacho; Hojlund

(4-2-3-1): Amrabat, McTominay; Antony, Martial, Garnacho; Hojlund

(4-2-3-1): Amrabat, McTominay; Rashford, Martial, Garnacho; Hojlund

In terms of a direct replacement against Liverpool, Ten Hag is still without natural alternative Christian Eriksen due to injury and Donny van de Beek is not threatening to break into the starting XI any time soon. Scott McTominay could be deployed behind a central striker given his goalscoring exploits so far this season, though Ten Hag could also offer up another start to Martial despite the Frenchman’s clear decline in quality in recent years.

Kobbie Mainoo and Sofyan Amrabat could be deployed as the workhorses to attempt to disrupt a lively Liverpool side, though the Reds have not looked entirely convincing in wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Whether Man Utd will have enough spirit and determination in their play to succeed at Anfield without their captain, however, is another thing entirely.

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