The French midfielder once again fueled the club-against-country debate with his stellar performance for Didier Deschamps’ side, gliding effortlessly through the park as he set the tone for an exciting encounter.
He would be joined for the last 20 minutes of the game by his club-mate Bruno Fernandes, after the United talisman was abandoned by Portugal amid disappointing performances in the opening two matches.
Fernandes had been criticized in games against Germany and Hungary for his poor performance with former United manager Jose Mourinho, saying Fernandes “was on the pitch but not playing”.
Few could complain about the decision to drop the 26-year-old from the bench for the Group F final, but such a move once again sent a timely warning to United and the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer l ‘uses.
Fernandes has played the most games for club and country among the top five European leagues in 2020-21 and the third highest number of minutes, it’s no surprise that his form this calendar year has been so uneven.
The Portuguese was only fully rested for two of United’s 61 games last season, even appearing in draws against Luton in the Carabao Cup and the second leg against Real Sociedad and AS Roma when his side had four goals in the total.
It’s a testament to Fernandes that he’s deemed so important to the United squad, but a disturbing reality that Solskjaer feels unable to give up for a game, even when he publicly describes the fixture list as ” impossible ”to manage.
“It’s done by people who have never played football at this level,” he said of the idea of playing Aston Villa, Leicester and Liverpool in the space of just five days. “It’s physically impossible for the players to do it after being here. , [and then] play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. We did not receive a good hand but we will have to play it as well as possible.
Fernandes would play a part in all three matches, totaling 188 more minutes of action, and it was always inevitable that his performances suffered in the offseason.
With a more ‘normal’ campaign on the horizon, there’s reason to believe the former Sporting midfielder will be back to his best with a more manageable workload, but the warning remains on. the way it is used by Solskjaer.
Regardless of how far Portugal has traveled in the European Championship, players like Fernandes will need to be given extended rest in the preseason and return to action with carefully managed minutes.
Any chance of winning the Premier League next season not only hinges on adding a few more faces in the summer window, but it also hinges on keeping a core of key players in shape, with added pressure on United manager to do his part of the deal.
Last season United got away with pushing Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to their limits, not something they can risk again.
With a World Cup just a year away, there’s a good chance United’s pre-season plans next summer will also be heavily compromised by a major international tournament and that only adds pressure for good. get it right this time around.