Louis Saha: ‘Bruno Fernandes is indispensable to Man United’

 | Tuesday 21st May 2024, 8:18am

Tuesday 21st May 2024, 8:18am

louis saha footy 1

With the FA Cup final still to be contested on Saturday, it’s still unclear whether it will be Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes’ final game for the club after he’s failed to clarify his future at Old Trafford in recent interviews. Club legend Louis Saha believes that the Portuguese international is indispensable to his former club and believes it’s evident that Fernandes is doubtful about the club’s plans to get back to the very top of English football. In an exclusive interview with Betfred, Saha also spoke about the “harsh” criticism Casemiro’s facing, Thomas Frank and Kieran McKenna being linked with the Manchester United manager’s job and the form of Amad Diallo. 

What’s your prediction for Saturday’s FA Cup final?

“I know that Manchester United played well against Newcastle United and Brighton, but Manchester City also come into the game in really great form after securing the Premier League title. However, the fact they have those two victories under their belt means that they can approach the final positively after showing a bit of consistency and it’s a good opportunity to beat the best team in the country or even Europe.

“So many players need a shake-up, but some of the players have done really well lately, which is a good sign, and if they win, the manager will be able to grasp what went wrong for them this season and it could be something to learn from if he remains in his post.

“I think Manchester United will win on penalties after a 2-2 draw.”

What do you believe Manchester United’s starting eleven should be for the game?

“It’s a tough one, especially when you use the example of Rasmus Højlund starting on the bench in the previous two games and coming on and scoring on both occasions. We don’t know if Marcus Rashford is in line to start considering his recent injury, but there’s a good momentum at the moment with Amad Diallo playing well and Alejandro Garnacho continuing to provide a threat. We all know how creative Bruno Fernandes can be on his day, so the question marks are more focused on the defence at this moment in time.

“Højlund came off the bench on Sunday against Brighton, so it will be very interesting to see the lineup, but the manager is the only person who will know how fit both Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martínez are. Casemiro is still a good option and he’s obviously much better when he plays in his preferred position. The line up could be the same as it’s been in the last few games with a few changes at the back depending on the fitness of certain players.”

If Manchester United lose Saturday’s FA Cup final, they won’t be playing in European competition next season. Do you believe they would benefit from a season without European football?

“Manchester United missed the opportunity to pick up a lot of points from games they were expected to win and ultimately, they were punished and deserved to finish in eighth place because the other teams above them have been way better. 

“Winning the FA Cup could be something that allows them to create a foundation, but nothing more than that.”

Bruno Fernandes' future at the club still remains unclear with the Portugal international refusing to commit his future to Manchester United in recent interviews he’s conducted. Do you believe Bruno is indispensable to your former club?

“Yes. At this moment in time, he’s a key player, he’s the captain of the club and he provides the most chances in a game for the team. Without him, they couldn’t create and they couldn’t win.

“If he’s not clarifying his future, then he’s obviously thinking things over and is doubtful about what the club has to offer. He will want guarantees about what the club are planning going forward. He’s been at the club for a while and has been targeted by the critics, despite being protected by Manchester United. He may believe that he doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves, so the board needs to assess what can be done to get this club back to the top because Bruno is the only player that’s been consistent over the last few years. I can understand if Bruno wants to be consistently playing in the Champions League and fighting for honours.”

Do you believe it was the right decision to let Raphaël Varane leave after the expiry of his contract?

“I’m sad because I know he loves the club and I’m sure he wanted to have achieved more and won more trophies than he has. He’s got the full respect of the footballing world and he’s been very unlucky with injuries during his time at Old Trafford but whenever he was fit, his performances were good.”

The Sun have reported that Aaron Wan-Bissaka is also set to leave at the end of the season. After five seasons at the club, do you believe now is the right time to leave for the player?

“What we’ve seen during his time at Manchester United is a player with enormous potential because he’s a very strong lad and he’s one of the very best in his position when it comes to defending. If he was able to play with wingers in top form, then his overall game would have increased as well. His creativity is not his strength but if he had a stronger relationship with the wingers in the team, then the overall balance would have been better. His chance creation and forward play still needs to improve, but he needs somebody in front of him to provide the magic and he’s still not found the right partner. When he was playing alongside Garnacho on the right-hand side, things were a bit better.

“If he does leave Manchester United this summer, then it’s because he’s not been provided with the right environment to improve . Ultimately, I still believe in him and he could improve in a better set up because he’s not had the right partnerships on the pitch and he’s been a part of an ever changing back four.”

Casemiro is another Manchester United player that could depart Old Trafford this summer. Despite his recent form, do you believe he’s been heavily disrespected by the media?

“Yes I do believe he’s been disrespected. When it comes to Manchester United, you could criticise many of the players and believe from last year, Casemiro has been dragged into a bit of a trap. He scored a lot of goals last season and people probably expected him to do the same this season, but that’s never been his game. 

“The criticism has been severe and harsh and then you hear Jamie Carragher almost inviting Casemiro to move to Saudi Arabia or the MLS. That’s crazy. I think it was disrespectful because nobody should advise someone in that way. I know it’s his job, but I don’t believe Jamie should have said that because Casemiro wants to do good and because of everything he’s achieved in the game, he faces more scrutiny than others and people try and bring him down as quick as they possibly can. That’s not fair. Everybody’s going to make mistakes and have bad games, but that doesn’t mean that every little thing needs to be scrutinised. I think the criticism has been very harsh.”

The Telegraph have reported that Brentford’s Thomas Frank is a strong contender to become the next Manchester United manager. Do you believe Thomas has the credentials to be a strong candidate for the role if it becomes available?

“It’s a difficult question to answer. We see top, top, top managers that have a proven track record of dealing well under the enormous pressure of not just managing a team, but managing the club as a whole. Being the manager of Manchester United is a different animal and it’s different to any other job. 

“If Thomas is being targeted, then it will be due to everything he’s done at Brentford over the last six years. He’s proven that he can build a team with a good style of play and he’s a very passionate guy as well. However, I see those same qualities in Erik ten Hag too.

“I believe appointing Thomas would be a bit of a gamble because we’ve seen it with Graham Potter at Chelsea. He, like Thomas, is a tremendous manager that has done very well at his previous clubs and then he moved to this new environment at an enormous club and he struggled to adapt to it.

“Manchester United is a club that needs guarantees and whoever the manager is next season, they’re going to have to deal with a big turnover of the squad because I believe a lot of players will leave and if a new manager comes in to oversee that, it’s an even harder job when there’s that level of movement going on.”

And now I want to ask you the same question regarding Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna?

“Kieran knows the club and it’s an appointment that could be well received. However, he would provide doubts because he’s never managed in the Premier League before and has never held a job as big as the Manchester United manager’s job. 

“We know about his qualities as a manager and how good he is tactically, but being the manager of Manchester United is very intense and can be tiring if you don’t have the right infrastructure. Hopefully under INEOS, Kieran would be protected and have less responsibility on his shoulders if he gets the job. I still believe the appointment would be a gamble though.” 

The Guardian have reported that McKenna is a leading candidate to become the next Chelsea manager. What are your thoughts on this?

“Chelsea have made mistakes over the years regarding the constant changing of managers. Recently, Mauricio Pochettino has managed to gain momentum and get a greater level of consistency from his players.. 

“Going to a club that moves around their managers a lot means the job comes with a lot of tension. It’s a very challenging environment and not very settled. If you feel as if you can be sacked from the odd decision then that’s very daunting and Chelsea and Manchester United are two clubs that have a huge level of interest from the media and that just adds to the pressure. It’s very hard to develop a new style or philosophy and be given the time to implement it.” 

Sky Sports News have reported that Manchester United are interested in signing Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo on a free transfer. Newcastle United are also pursuing his signature, but do you believe Tosin has the potential to be a great value for money signing for Manchester United? Do you believe he would get more gametime if he moved to Newcastle United instead?

“When you look at both Manchester United and Newcastle United at the moment, you’d have to say that Newcastle are most consistent defensively and have a number of options at centre-back who are not necessarily big names, but their performances have been very good. 

“Manchester United’s defence is a less stable environment, so it can be difficult to excel. Tosin is a player that’s good in the air, positive with the ball at his feet and has a lot of potential. I can see him stepping up and being a top, top player.”

Talksport have claimed that Manchester United could pursue a move for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins this summer. Do you believe Watkins would give up playing in the Champions League with Aston Villa this summer to pursue a move to Old Trafford?

“I believe it’s been identified that Rasmus Højlund needs a proper number nine to learn from and help him understand the right movements, pressing, link-up and many other key things you need to be the main forward at a club like Manchester United. 

“Against Newcastle and Brighton, Rasmus provided two great goals because he was fresher and Ollie Watkins has got this authenticity and knows how to create chances for his teammate as well as being in the right spot to take goalscoring opportunities himself. He could help Ramus develop as a forward, but right now he has a huge opportunity to show the world what he can do in the Champions League next season. 

“It’s a really difficult decision for him to make if Manchester United’s interest is genuine because they’re one of the biggest clubs in Europe. If I was in his position, I would wait a few weeks to think about it, focus solely on the Euros and see what comes of the interest.”

Do you believe Amad Diallo has shown in recent weeks that he can have a big future at Manchester United? Do you believe he needs to be a mainstay in the squad next season and do you believe he could even secure a starting berth for the club?

“We’ve seen that Amad’s been able to provide something different. He’s very sharp, creative and has provided that link between players. He’s capable of redirecting passes, good under pressure with the ball and he’s always full of surprises, so he does provide something very special and asks questions of defenders. 

“I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen of him and we shouldn’t forget that he’s been injured a lot, so hopefully there’s the right fitness set-up in place for him to be very consistent. There’s a vacancy to make that position on the right-wing his own, so whichever winger does best during pre-season could be starting there when the next season begins in August.”


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