Bruno Fernandes has had a stunning year, no doubt about it, but the Manchester United midfielder still has areas he can improve in.
His blunted performance against Liverpool once again brought to the fore his issues against those sides considered ‘Big Six’ rivals.
The Portuguese ace has led the Red Devils to the top of the Premier League table, something which looked improbable as recently as last November.
He’s managed an incredible 11 goals and seven assists, even if five of those strikes have been penalty kicks, which have turned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into title contenders.
But, as we saw against Liverpool, Fernandes does have a tendency to drift when it comes to playing those around Man United at the head of the division.
Obviously it can’t all be placed at his door; this is a team game after all and if his numbers are dropping it’s partially to do with his teammates also fading.
At Anfield, while he was able to continue his excellent shooting record – he had four with two on target – Fernandes suffered a big drop in other areas.
The amount of touches from his prior game against Burnley (84) dropped down to just 50, while he completed only 21 passes compared to 55 in the previous match.
Even his ability to carry the ball, a more individual statistic fell. He made nine progressive carries against Burnley but only two at the weekend.
While, overall, he only managed 28 carries compared to the 52 in United’s clash with the Clarets.
Speaking on Monday’s talkSPORT Breakfast, the former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara openly queried the ace’s form against other top sides.
He said: “Bruno Fernandes gets built up massively, everyone talks about him being this brilliant player and he is – he’s been fantastic for Man United.
“But in the last few weeks when I’ve watched him against the big clubs, Liverpool and Man City, he’s been poor.
“The standard of his passing… Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did a little interview where he says Fernandes ‘frustrates him’, and I can actually see that because he gets in great positions sometimes but he gives the ball away for fun!
“Everyone slaughters Paul Pogba, people give him a hard time, people give Harry Maguire a hard time, I think Scott McTominay was absolutely fantastic for Man United against Liverpool and Luke Shaw.
“But Bruno Fernandes, I’m looking at his performance thinking, ‘come on, you can score loads of penalties but in those big moments if you want to win the league you need to step up a bit more’.
“He’s been going missing in these big games.
Bruno Fernandes’ form in Premier League games
Against the ‘Big Six’
Games – 8
Minutes – 656
Goals – 2
Assists – 2
Minutes per goal – 328
Minutes per goal/assist – 164
Chances created per 90 – 2.3
Shots per 90 – 3.2
Successful passes per 90 – 34
Tackles per 90 – 1.2
Against the ‘The Rest’
Games – 24
Minutes – 2016
Goals – 17
Assists – 12
Minutes per goal – 119
Minutes per goal/assist – 70
Chances created per 90 – 3
Shots per 90 – 3.6
Successful passes per 90 – 48
Tackles per 90 – 1.9
“I’m not saying he’s not been absolutely fantastic for them, but if you want to be a team that wins the Premier League, you have to produce in those big games.
“Even if it’s just one pass or one piece of magic, Fernandes needs to do that on those moments, because he got the ball in so many great areas yesterday and he just kept giving it away – it was so frustrating.
“That’s the difference between him and a player like Kevin De Bruyne, who you know will turn up in every single game.”
And the statistics certainly support O’Hara’s view point.
Fernandes’ minutes per goal are pretty much doubled, while his minutes per goal or assist are more than doubled.
As expected, his passing and his shooting stats also drop off, but maybe more concerning is the fact he seems to tackle less when United, arguably, need him more.
It should certainly give manager Solskjaer pause for though the next time Manchester United face a ‘Big Six’ rival in the Premier League,