Man Utd may finally have world class leader back in brilliant news for Erik ten Hag

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The No 8 has been one of United’s most influential players under Ten Hag, as you’d expect. However, Ronaldo’s presence and demand to be the focal point of whatever team he’s in has tarnished what he does best – score goals and provide assists.

In the Premier League this season, Fernandes has registered no direct goal contributions in 520 minutes of football while he’s shared the pitch with Ronaldo. With him off the pitch, Fernandes has registered two goals and an assist in 650 minutes, not near the rate at which he’s used to producing at Old Trafford, but an improvement no less.

That said, the proof that Fernandes flourishes without Ronaldo to service goes beyond the start of this season. You simply have to revisit his freakish numbers from his first campaign and a half and compare it to the campaign and a half after the No 7 returned to M16.

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From his United arrival in January 2020 to the end of the 2020/21 season, Fernandes produced a sensational 45 direct goal contributions in 51 Premier League games. He registered 26 goals and 19 assists during that period, averaging a contribution every 96 minutes to cement himself as one of Europe’s best midfielders.

However, his output took a hit after Ronaldo made his glorious return to Old Trafford in the summer of 2021. While the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was scoring goals for fun in an underperforming team, Fernandes has only been able to muster 12 goals and seven assists in his last 49 league outings.

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It’s a drop to a direct goal involvement every 225 minutes and an indicator that United haven’t been able to play to his strengths with Ronaldo in the same team. But with the forward out of the picture, Ten Hag can look to get the best out of Fernandes again.

He plays best at the heart of a dynamic attack, acting as the central hub of counter-attacks, and is also reliable from the penalty spot. Ten Hag’s side have struggled for goals this term but could be about to see a key outlet return in Fernandes.

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