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Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag defends Bruno Fernandes and brands social media criticism 'pathetic'

Erik ten Hag believes the ongoing criticism of Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes is "pathetic"; Casemiro scored an 89th-minute winner for United away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup fifth round; Ten Hag's side face home tie against Liverpool in the last eight

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Speaking after the 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag claimed recent criticism of Bruno Fernandes is 'pathetic' and suggested Forest targeted him during the game

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag accused Nottingham Forest of targeting Bruno Fernandes in his side's FA Cup win at the City Ground and branded criticism of his captain as "pathetic".

The Portugal midfielder overcame a "serious injury" to play his part in United's 1-0 victory at Forest, setting up Casemiro's 89th-minute winner from a free-kick.

Forest looked fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men in stoppage time after Felipe grabbed Fernandes' throat.

He was on the receiving end of plenty of robust challenges from Forest throughout the 90 minutes while also being the butt of social media jokes after Saturday's loss against Fulham where he suffered the problem.

Fulham's official TikTok account poked fun at him for appearing to feign injury and it got Ten Hag's back up.

Asked about the severity of Fernandes' injury, he said: "I don't want to go into that because you saw that Forest was targeting him, so I don't tell what he has but it was a serious injury.

"There were many fouls on him. Maybe I am a little bit too tough but when he has the ball they were really tight on him.

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Casemiro stoops to head in his winning goal
Image: Casemiro stoops to head in his winning goal

"Then I see that serious media criticise him and social media is pathetic and it can't be.

"He has a serious injury but he continued to play on Saturday and today he also fought to be part of the game and he has a very high pain threshold.

"Last year he did also something similar against Spurs and in the semi-final and it shows his leadership because that expresses his character and that is very good when you are a leader."

Ten Hag: Liverpool a very good challenge for us

United were on the right end this time of a late winner
Image: United were on the right end this time of a late winner

The history of United and English football could have turned out very differently if Mark Robins had not scored for the club against Nottingham Forest back in January 1990. Sir Alex Ferguson was on the brink of being sacked when Robins struck the winner in an FA Cup third-round tie.

It prevented a fourth straight trophy-less season for Ferguson and the rest, as they say, is history. This dramatic victory - witnessed by Sir Alex in the stands - provides a welcome shot in the arm for Ten Hag.

His injury-hit United not only bounced back from the home loss to Fulham but avoided extra-time exertions before this weekend's derby clash with Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands at the City Ground
Image: Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands at the City Ground

Ten Hag added: "It's big - we want to win every competition - the team fighting, showing determination, passion and desire.

"They showed it today, we were disappointed after Saturday but we showed resilience. We have serious problems at the back four - happy Rapha [Raphael Varane] and Bruno [Fernandes] fought to be part of this game. It was so important, Bruno's assist.

"It was hard to line-up, especially the back four - it was a puzzle. We found the right formation and organisation - first half although we created chances, we allowed them some counters.

"After that we took control of the game - we were calm, composed - we got the switches, we took control, didn't allow counter-attacks, very pleased with the second half - pleased with the spirit and desire showed."

On facing Liverpool in the next round, the United boss said: "There are many good teams in the Premier League - Liverpool are top so it's a very good challenge for us. We are looking forward to Sunday [against Manchester City]."

Nuno: My players felt there was an illegal block

Nuno Espirito Santo greets Ten Hag on Wednesday
Image: Nuno Espirito Santo greets Ten Hag on Wednesday

Casemiro's goal survived a lengthy VAR check as Varane, who was in an offside position, blocked a couple of Forest players, but he was ruled not to be interfering in play.

Such has been Forest's frustration at refereeing decisions in recent weeks, they have appointed Mark Clattenburg to act as a conduit to the PGMOL and he was spotted sat next to Howard Webb.

This was another decision that went against them but boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who swatted away Ten Hag's suggestions of targeting Fernandes, did not want to dwell on it.

Nuno said: "I didn't see clearly the images but speaking with the players they say it is a block and a possible offside. They checked it.

"We have had so many issues in this period with VAR and referees that we try to forget about it and move forward.

"I think it was a good performance, we played good, much better than the previous game, so improvement from that.

"It is frustrating to lose it in the end but I think we played good, football is cruel sometimes and today we are on that side."

Broad: Fair result but 'moan' United won't beat Liverpool

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After reporting on Manchester United's 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest for Soccer Special, former England cricketer Stuart Broad claims there's a culture of moaning at Old Trafford, led by captain Bruno Fernandes

Stuart Broad on Soccer Special:

"Ultimately, I don't think any Forest fan can have any complaints about the result. Manchester United had the extra quality and probably just about deserved it.

"Onana had to make five saves and they were all straight at him. If Forest had found the corner with one of them, they'd have gone ahead. United won it late on with a bit of controversy over a potential offside but the block wasn't interfering so it was the right call.

Confirmed FA Cup quarter-final line-up

  • Wolves vs Coventry
  • Manchester United vs Liverpool
  • Chelsea vs Leicester
  • Manchester City vs Newcastle

"It was poor defending to allow the free-kick to come in at the near post and for Casemiro to get to the ball first. I'm gutted, but I'm sure 99 per cent of the football world will be happy we've got Man Utd vs Liverpool in the quarter-finals.

"I thought United were pretty average. They're a weird watch as I grew up watching the team under Sir Alex Ferguson. It's quite tiring watching Fernandes. He has his arms up for almost every decision and that feeds into the rest of the team.

"There's a moany culture out there on the field of play that they need to try and shake as they've got natural quality there. It would be a surprise for me if they were to beat Liverpool in the next round. There's something missing with United and the players lack that same intensity."

Rooney: Ten Hag will get time

Erik ten Hag watches his side in FA Cup action
Image: Erik ten Hag watches his side in FA Cup action

Former Man Utd forward Wayne Rooney told the BBC: "It is a massive victory, and not the best of games. Both sides missed good chances but that's a big win for Manchester United.

"You want big players to have big moments and Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro combined at the end. A lot is made about Erik ten Hag's position but he has been doing OK. We are starting to see more consistency and I think he will get time."

On Marcus Rashford's form: "You need the team to create chances for you if you are playing as a number nine. Marcus Rashford needs to be more ruthless and be patient and stay in the middle of the goal. You just want to see more from him.

"Confidence is the main factor, he hasn't been scoring regularly this season and he maybe needs to simplify his game to get back in the groove.

"He's not the most vocal lad. His body language doesn't look great at times but he's not like that. The senior players need to get more out of him and get him fired up."

What's next?

Nottingham Forest host Premier League leaders Liverpool at the City Ground on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.

Man Utd travel to the Etihad Stadium to face cross-town neighbours Man City on Sky Sports Premier League from 3pm, kick-off 3.30pm.

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