When the matchday squad was announced for Manchester United’s recent clash with Everton, fans were left bemused by the omission of Cristiano Ronaldo.
When United failed to secure the three points against the Toffees, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team selection was heavily criticised, with former Aston Villa forward turned pundit Gabby Agbonlahor even calling the decision a ‘sackable offence.’
Solskjaer had every right to bench 36-year-old Ronaldo in place of Edinson Cavani and United arguably played some of their best football of the season with the Portuguese superstar watching from the sidelines.
However, the criticism Solskjaer has since received coupled with United’s dire need to improve results could mean Ronaldo becomes a constant in the United starting XI – and the same may apply to fans’ favourite Bruno Fernandes.
Since Fernandes signed for United, he’s been a vital component of the attack and has subsequently barely had any time to rest.
A report by the FIFPro last week found that Fernandes had a consistently high workload for seven consecutive months last season, a stat that has seen him dubbed one of the most overused players in world football.
As fans saw towards the end of last season, Fernandes looked tired and his ability to impact games started to wane.
With Donny van de Beek on the bench – a man brought into the club to allow the Portuguese maestro a breather from time to time – there’s no reason why United can’t drop Fernandes.
Therefore, it simply comes down to Solskjaer and the player. Does the United boss feel he can risk dropping Fernandes? Because if he does and United don’t win, he knows he’ll be in for a barrage of criticism.
And can he convince a strong-minded individual like Fernandes that maybe he would be better off sitting on the bench from time to time?
As we’ve seen with rivals Manchester City, they have key players that will play in 80% of games, but when they feel like they can get a result without the likes of Kevin De Bruyne or Bernardo Silva, they will rotate to allow their star men time to recuperate.
Basically, Solskjaer needs to play the team that suits the situation and take a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s book in not listening to the critics.
Otherwise, some of his most important players could be too tired to perform at their best in the most important weeks of the season.