How Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo incompatibility haunts Man United

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes haven’t had the impact as a partnership that fans would have expected from their previous relationship and it has proved detrimental to Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four finish.

Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo haven’t quite clicked as a duo in the Premier League for Manchester United. Perhaps the Portuguese players have to work out a magic to meet up with the expectations especially from the fans.

When Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, many fans expected that the forward would rekindle a productive partnership with the club’s existing ‘Portuguese Magnifico’, Bruno Fernandes, as they had successfully played together previously for the national team.

United fans had already seen at close quarters the benefit of a partnership at the tip of an attack with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min running riot with two goals apiece in a 6-1 win for Spurs at Old Trafford last season. The pair have firmly established themselves as one of the most potent attacking duos in the Premier League.

In fact, after their link-up against Leeds United on Saturday, they now rank as the most deadly partnership in Premier League history with 37 total goal contributions ahead of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard on 36.

United have not been able to replicate that type of firepower with Ronaldo and Fernandes working in tandem. Since Ronaldo’s debut, the two Portuguese stars have only linked up for a single goal, ironically against Spurs, which is baffling given that one is meant to be United’s major goal threat while Fernandes is meant to be the club’s main creator.

In fact, some of Fernandes’ best games statistically have come while Ronaldo has not been on the field. He scored his first and only hat-trick for United against Leeds at the start of the season before the club’s famous No.7 rejoined the club from Juventus.

And he also scored a brace against Aston Villa in United’s 2-2 draw, which was a game that Ronaldo was rested in and Fernandes also registered two assists against Brentford, with one of those arriving when the striker had vacated the field.

The penalty taker order offered the first indication. Fernandes was United’s undisputed penalty taker before Ronaldo rejoined the club but after the midfielder missed a crucial penalty against Aston Villa, he gave way to the striker who has scored so many in his career, despite having a lower conversion rate.

Fernandes had also previously taken free-kicks from shooting distance in a United shirt but that duty has also been ceded to his senior.

It’s not just set-pieces, though. Ronaldo and Fernandes were poor against Watford with both missing key chances which could have secured all three points for United. The former made his feelings vehemently clear when Fernandes opted to shoot in the first half and force a save from Ben Foster rather than square for what would have been an almost certain deadlock-breaker.

At the full-time whistle, Ronaldo looked visibly irritated at his Portugal teammate who had spent the latter stages of the game attempting more shots from outside the box and overhit longballs to find his teammate as United’s attempts to find an ultimately elusive opening goal became more and more frantic.

Fernandes had equal right to feel aggrieved at the number of presentable opportunities his compatriot squandered in a profligate (and potentially costly) display in front of goal.

While Son and Kane were linking up to devastating effect once more on Saturday, United’s turgid attacking play reared its ugly head once again. It increasingly feels as if there is a compatibility issue between Ronaldo and Fernandes. United’s top-four hopes and Champions League chances rest on Ralf Rangnick discovering a solution or making a big call on either player.

Do you think Ronaldo and Fernandes will find their feet together?

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