Ralf Rangnick has finally accepted the advice given to former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by ex-Sporting Lisbon manager Carlos Carvalhal on how best to utilise Bruno Fernandes in Manchester United’s set up.
The German tactician spoke glowingly of the Portuguese midfielder after the game, also revealing that he considers the former Sporting Lisbon man to be a number 8 instead of a number 10, which he has been deployed in since signing for the club in 2020.
Rangnick has not been the most popular figure in the club’s dressing room since arriving at Old Trafford, largely due to his experimenting with tactics and formations. The former Red Bull Salzburg manager settled on a 4-2-2-2 formation to the chagrin of fans, players and some club insiders.
The formation has not totally failed the club, however, as only league leaders Manchester City have amassed more points in the league since he took over as interim coach at Old Trafford. But performances on the pitch have been questionable and his reactions to those performances has seen his popularity take a nosedive.
The last two games saw him switch to a 4-3-3 which placed Fernandes in the number 8 role, and it has paid off massively for the club and for Rangnick’s chances of achieving his aim. Fernandes has scored two and assisted another two in his last two games in the 4-3-3 formation after being one of the players to suffer as a result of Rangnick’s tinkering and his preferred 4-2-2-2 formation.
Speaking on his switch to a 4-3-3 and how it has affected Bruno Fernandes, Rangnick said: “I think most of the top teams in Europe and also in England play in a 4-3-3. I think for him, it’s better than being pinned to a No.10 position because he can then make himself available in different areas of the pitch, not only in the centre.
“For me, he’s not a wing player, but I think in this position, he can find the spaces himself, he can sniff the moments in which areas we have to play the ball for him, and this position as an 8 is almost perfect for him.”
Fernandes had previously thrived in the number 10 role under Solskjaer, which played a role in convincing Rangnick to keep the player in that role. However, Fernandes was not able to perform as a 10 in Rangnick’s experimental formations and in his preferred 4-2-2-2. Rangnick’s realisation brings to mind the warning that Solskjaer received when he continued to deploy Fernandes outside a number 8 role.
Carvalhal’s advice to Solskjaer that was ignored
Solskjaer signed Fernandes with the purpose of playing him all across the attack, even stating to journalists that he could play anywhere. The Norwegian manager, however, kept him behind the strikers most of the time and Fernandes performed excelletnly well.
Howver, there were some times that he could have had a better impact playing somewhere else, but Solskjaer could not see it.
Fernandes’ ex-manager at Sporting Lisbon, Carlos Carvalhal observed this and adviced Solskjaer earlier in Fernandes’ United career. “He is not a number 10. He is a midfielder but he has developed that ability to break the line of the defence to score goals,” Carvalhal said to Sky Sports after the midfielder’s first game for United.
“He shoots, he assists, the passes and the free-kicks. But he is not a 10, he is an 8. He is a box-to-box player who understands the game very well. He doesn’t just play. He understands everything that happens around him.
“He can organise the team, he can talk, he can give feedback. He is kind of like a manager on the pitch.
“He can organise things in the last part of the pitch. He is a really exciting player.”