Erik ten Hag hailed “best player on the pitch” Bruno Fernandes for his display of “personality” as Man Utd improved from what he admitted was “complacency” to beat Betis.
Fernandes was singled out for criticism even more severely than his team-mates following United’s 7-0 thrashing at Liverpool on Sunday, with a number of moments of petulance raising questions over his suitability to wear the captain’s armband.
He had been defended by both Ten Hag and Marcus Rashford in the build-up to Thursday’s Europa League last-16 game, and responded in the best way possible himself with a player-of-the-match performance at Old Trafford in which he scored one goal and made another.
“He was the best player on the pitch and it showed his personality. He played in a little bit of a deeper role tonight, he was brilliant,” said Ten Hag.
“He was a leader in playmaking from deep and controlling the rhythm of the game. He had a lot of good passes in between the lines and from there-on we created a lot of chances.”
Ten Hag added to BT Sport: “He led the team from the first minute by his game, with possession, make the rhythm of the game and score a goal so I’m happy.”
United’s performance at Anfield last weekend was the third time they had collapsed in the Premier League this season, following hammerings at Brentford and Manchester City earlier in the campaign.
On each occasion they have bounced back from adversity to win their next match, and showed their mettle again to hold off Betis’ growing momentum after their first-half equaliser, to respond with three unanswered goals after the break.
Ten Hag revealed after he had already expressed his frustration at his players’ recent performances before the Liverpool game, but that the result at Anfield had laid bare what he had been saying.
He said: “It’s not about ignoring [Sunday’s game], we made mistakes and we got hammered for that. We didn’t control the standards we have.
“If you could say we showed complacency, you can never do that in top football. In the weeks before [the Liverpool defeat] I was not happy with the performance against Newcastle, I was not happy against Leicester with the performance in the first half.
“Sometimes you need a bad result to open everyone’s eyes first.”
United named an unchanged line-up from the Anfield defeat against Betis, and Ten Hag admitted the decision to stick with the same team had been motivated by offering them a chance to redeem themselves in the Europa League.
He said: “It was, but I thought it was the best line-up when I saw Betis. We have played 23 games in a row with one loss, and even though the 24th was a huge defeat you cannot ignore the 22 games before where this team has played very well.”
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