Portugal made a decision that Manchester United continuously fail to make against France on Wednesday night.
For the first time in the group stage matches, Portugal manager, Fernando Santos arrived at the conclusion that he should drop Bruno Fernandes from his starting line-up — opting to start Joao Moutinho instead.
This came after former Old Trafford head honcho Jose Mourinho had slammed the United star, claiming the latter “was on the pitch but not playing” against Hungary and Germany.
Much criticism has been made of the Portuguese international and, after coming off the bench on Wednesday night, he was fortunate enough not to give away a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Kingsley Coman.
There were a few rash first touches and Fernandes failed to do much off the bench to persuade Santos to change his decision for Portugal’s last 16 tie against Belgium.
This fall in form, however, isn’t as surprising as many are suggesting.
The United talisman played the most games for club and country of any player in Europe’s top five leagues in 2020-21.
His form this calendar year has been patchy and the fact he was only (completely) rested for two of United’s 61 games last season is beginning to take its toll.
It’s fair to say United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer outright refuses to bench the 26-year-old and as a result, fatigue seems to be the likely reason as to why Fernandes isn’t performing to his full capacity at this summer’s European Championship.
Even with other options in the squad to play in the No.10 — such as Donny Van De Beek — Solskjaer passes up the opportunity to rest him.
Yes, it is understandable why. The Portuguese has been a game-changer ever since he arrived in January 2020 for United, contributing 28 goals and 17 assists last season alone.
However with the Euros ending in mid-July and only around 30 days from the end of the tournament before the Premier League starts, it is safe to say that Fernandes needs rest.
And if Portugal can drop him in one of their biggest group-stage games, Solskjaer can certainly leave Fernandes on the sidelines for United’s pre-season programme.
He may even see the benefit in leaving Fernandes out for the odd Premier League game next season.