Bruno Fernandes believes Manchester United are building something special under Erik ten Hag, who the skipper feels a debt of gratitude to having stood by him amid intense criticism following the Liverpool debacle.
The meticulous Dutchman has helped drag the Old Trafford giants up from a low ebb, leading them back into the Champions League having won the Carabao Cup in his first season at the helm.
Ten Hag now has the chance to end a positive campaign by completing a domestic cup double with a statement victory at Wembley, where United take on treble-chasing Manchester City on Saturday.
The first all-Manchester FA Cup final promises to be a special occasion and one that Fernandes, set to skipper the side, believes can provide the catalyst for further success.
“It is important for us, even to build,” the Portugal international told the PA news agency. “We are now building something we see can be special in the future.
“Obviously I think if we win the FA Cup, it will give a little bit more belief that we can go into the next season and aim for bigger targets.”
Fernandes, who signed a new deal at United towards the end of last season, said: “I want to win trophies at the club.
“I spoke with the club before I signed that contract and said ‘I want to be successful with the club, but I need to make sure the club is going to be the right things and do things in a successful way’.
“I think those steps are being done. We still need some things and I think we will have that. Not only with transfers but also in the dressing room with us stepping up more in moments that we needed it this season, but we didn’t.
“Next season we will have learned so we need to do it better.”
Fernandes’ drive and fiercely ambitious nature matches that of Ten Hag, who he credits for overseeing a “big improvement on the team mentality wise and quality wise”.
“I said since the beginning of the season he demands a lot,” the playmaker said. “He wants to win. He wants to be in the position to win everything.
“He doesn’t hide that, he shows that, he passes the message through the players, so it makes you be always aware that you have to be at the best level as possible to play with him, to be part of the club.
“He has made high demands for everyone to understand that we are in a big club and to be here we have to deserve to be here, we have to show that we deserve to be here.
“And I think that he has been changing the mentality of everyone to not be relaxed, not be thinking that your place is guaranteed here.”
Ten Hag has overseen a largely positive campaign, but there have been some ugly bumps in the road – no more so than March’s club record-equalling 7-0 defeat at arch-rivals Liverpool.
That shellacking saw skipper Fernandes face scathing criticism from the likes of United greats Roy Keane and Gary Neville – a stinging assessment that led to a staunch defence by his manager.
“I’m aware that he’s really happy with the way I train, the way I play, the way I show my emotions, the way I show my passion for the game,” the Portuguese said of Ten Hag.
“He knows I care, that’s why probably sometimes it makes you do some things that you should not do.
“But he knows that I will never do nothing to make the team look bad, my team-mates look bad, or making something that is not good for the team.
“He knows that, so that’s why it protects me. That’s why he did that in that interview and many other times.
“Whenever he thinks that he has to say something that he didn’t like to me, he has called me two or three times in his office and he said ‘look, we have to change this, we have to change this, I think you could do it in a different way’.
“We had many conversations this season. He always called the players to talk with them, he has a lot of individual meetings with the players.
“I think that’s good because he shows you the respect, he shows you the protection. But always with the demands behind that because obviously when you protect someone you want him to give you some back, so he can have his reasons to protect you.”
Captaining United to their first domestic cup double will certainly help repay Ten Hag’s backing and would mean a huge amount to the fans.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1999 heroes are the only team to have won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same campaign, adding extra incentive – if any was needed – to Saturday’s encounter under the arch.
“We are aware of this,” Fernandes said. “We know this. We know the story of our club and that the fans don’t want City to do that.
“But for ourselves it is about lifting a trophy. The importance of this for us is winning another trophy, making sure we end the season in the best way possible.
“We know if we win the trophy, the consequence of that is Man City cannot do the treble anymore.
“But from the players’ side, it is just about winning the game because we want to win a trophy for ourselves, the club, the fans. That is it.”
#Bruno #Fernandes #explains #Man #United #building #special #Erik #ten #Hag