IAN LADYMAN: Bruno Fernandes flunks what it takes to be a captain on ALL levels with his moans to referees and theatrical criticism of team-mates… he DOESN’T set the tone and Erik ten Hag must consider stripping him of the armband
Erik ten Hag is a calm and dignified man. It’s one of the things that is likeable about him. It also lends him an aura of power, control and authority.
It is easy to fear someone who is shouting and ranting all the time, harder to truly respect them. So Ten Hag scores highly on the body language, certainly.
What the Manchester United manager must do now is consider taking another tough decision and this one revolves around the future of Bruno Fernandes as his captain.
Harry Maguire is the club captain at United but rarely plays these days so, on match day, the responsibility passes to Fernandes, only it seems to one that the Portuguese player does not understand.
Captaincy matters in football, or at least it should. The player leading the team and wearing the arm band should set the tone, not just in terms of the way he or she plays but also in terms of behaviour and attitude. Fernandes, for all his gifts as a creative footballer, flunks it on all those levels and this is not just an over-reaction to what happened at Anfield during that miserable second half for Ten Hag’s team.
Erik ten Hag (right) must decide if he sticks or twists with Bruno Fernandes (left) as captain
The Portuguese star (left) is a fine player but he simply does not set the tone as the captain
Fernandes was embarrassing on Sunday, his behaviour extreme.
But we have seen it before at a more micro-level. The complaining to referees, the theatrical criticism of team-mates, the amateur dramatics when in contact with opponents. It is not the way any player at a top club should behave, never mind the captain.
Gary Neville, a former United skipper, was in to him quickly on commentary on Sunday. He called his second half behaviour a ‘disgrace’ and it wasn’t too much of an exaggeration.
Not all players are cut out for captaincy. Some are better off concentrating on their own football and there is no shame in that. Fernandes, from that point of view, has much to offer.
In terms of a replacement, there are candidates.
Casemiro (left) and Raphael Varane (right) are viewed as potential alternatives as the captain
Marcus Rashford would not be the most vocal leader but is an example on the pitch to others
Casemiro – the Brazilian – may struggle with the language as he is not confident in English yet. Raphael Varane may therefore be a better candidate.
Marcus Rashford, quiet though he is, may offer something by way of leading by example. So may Christian Eriksen, when fit.
Ten Hag should look at all this, at the very least.
For all United’s remarkable progress on his short watch, Sunday at Anfield showed him that problems remain. Fernandes as captain is most definitely one of them.