Bruno Fernandes points finger of blame as he addresses Cristiano Ronaldo criticism

Bruno Fernandes has rejected suggestions that his Manchester United form is adversely impacted when Cristiano Ronaldo is playing.

The two stars are teammates at both club and international level, but Fernandes’ form nosedived after Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford last summer. Having bagged 29 goals and provided 19 assists in his first 53 Premier League appearances since joining in January 2020, the former Sporting CP playmaker’s numbers dipped drastically after Ronaldo joined.

He has scored just eight goals and notched up only seven goal assists in the last 40 Premier League matches, with his own downfall in form coinciding with United – who slumped to a sixth-placed finish last season having recorded successive top-three finishes prior to that.

Ronaldo has started just one Premier League game so far this season – the humiliating four-goal loss at Brentford – but has been a substitute in the four matches since when United have secured 12 points from 12 with Fernandes scoring and assisting goals in that run.

But Fernandes explained in an interview with The Athletic that there was no link between his numbers and Ronaldo’s presence: “Most of my assists last season were for him, so I don’t think (it is fair). I just had a poor season in terms of my own numbers. I don’t think it is about Cristiano or myself.

“Before he came, I was also taking the penalties, but I had two chances to take the penalties last season and I missed both. So I cannot blame Cristiano for taking penalties, especially when he scores them.

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Ronaldo has not started in the Premier League since United's four-goal humbling at Brentford

Ronaldo has not started in the Premier League since United’s four-goal humbling at Brentford

“When I missed against Arsenal in April, it was him who gave me the ball and said, ‘Go yourself and score’. I missed but I felt that he trusted me to be the one to step up and score in the big moment. So I don’t think it is because of Cristiano, it is because I didn’t do the best in myself in some moments to get goals or assists.”

Fernandes continued, referencing the duo’s time together at Portugal: “In the national team, I play with him and when I score, he is on the pitch. To play with Cristiano as a No 10 is actually really good because players respect Cristiano so much that it creates more space, as the opponents are afraid of him taking the ball and scoring.

“They want to mark him and (they) create an overload where he is to mark him. For example, when I scored two goals against North Macedonia, one was from his assist and the other was from his run which created the space behind him for me to score.”

Fernandes and Ronaldo have not replicated their Portugal link-up form at United

Fernandes and Ronaldo have not replicated their Portugal link-up form at United
Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

The playmaker also added that even when Ronaldo was not on the pitch for United, his figures last season were not up to his standards: “I played the last four Premier League games without Cristiano starting and I scored only one goal. So it is not because of Cristiano. It is about momentum and timing. Sometimes it goes in a bad way and sometimes a better way.

“Obviously he can be really good to play together with, for someone who gives assists, as if you give him the right ball, he will score goals.”

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