How do Manchester United cope without Bruno Fernandes? The answer, it seems, is that they can’t.
Nobody needs to reiterate the importance of the Portuguese playmaker to this United side but as he sat in the stands at the London Stadium trying to keep warm as his team-mates were taking a battering from David Moyes' West Ham, his position as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most important player was reinforced.
In an ideal world, the manager wouldn't have had to bring on the 26-year-old. He hoped the four changes he had made to rotate his team would be enough to pick up three points in London, while at the same time resting key players ahead of another busy week.
Unfortunately, his trust was misplaced.
Fernandes has started every Premier League game since he signed for the club in the January window. He is the glue that holds the team together, a big part of the reason why Solskjaer’s side now find themselves in the top four of the table after winning their first five away games of a new league season for the first time since 1985-86.
In the first half, West Ham, being led by a manager who infamously flopped at Old Trafford, looked like a team that possessed everything United lacked: a plan, energy and creativity. They worked hard on and off the ball and fashioned chance after chance while United floundered.
The only positive for the visitors after a dreadful 45 minutes was that they only found themselves trailing by one goal at the break, with Sebastien Haller, Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals all squandering good chances for the Hammers.
As Sky Sports commentator and former United right-back Gary Neville said: “This Manchester United performance is as bad as it gets.” But is it? It didn't feel like anything new.
United, after all, have been in losing positions at half-time so many times this season alone. Indeed, this was the fifth consecutive Premier League away game in which they have had to come from behind to get a result.
It took an inspired substitution, in Edinson Cavani, to turn the game last weekend to get an important win against Southampton and this weekend it was the turn of Fernandes.
It is hard to know how the first half would have played out had the Portugal international started but it was easy to see how much better of a side they are with him on the field. There was an added zip to their passing and an intensity to their attack that was absent in the opening 45 minutes.
Marcus Rashford, who was also brought on at the break, should also be credited for bringing some vigour to a frontline that had looked flat and ineffective. But Fernandes was the catalyst to yet another comeback win.
While United managed just three shots in the first half, and only one that needed saving from Lukasz Fabianski, Fernandes was involved in eight alone in the second.
Indeed, it was he who laid the ball off for Pogba to level matters in the 65th minute with a brilliant strike from outside the area. It was Fernandes' 11th Premier League assist since joining United.
It was obvious what was coming next. In 2020, United have won more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League, whilst West Ham have dropped the most points from winning positions than anyone else.
A classy finish from Mason Greenwood put Solskjaer's side ahead three minutes later before Rashford wrapped up another unlikely 3-1 win with just 12 minutes remaining.
Still, while their grit and determination cannot be faulted, there should be big concerns about the fact that United repeatedly find themselves in perilous positions.
They’ve been a 'streaky' team since the start of last season but United are now proving maddeningly inconsistent even within the same game. There is often a massive difference in performance levels between the first and second half.
“We need to stop doing that," Rashford told Sky after the win at West Ham. "If we keep more clean sheets, we’ll win more games. It’s good that we show spirit to come back but, ideally, we don’t want to be always conceding.”
In a season full of twists, crazy games and unexpected results, Solskjaer will be more than happy to see his side fourth in the table, just two points off top spot at the time of writing.
However, if they're going to mount a credible title challenge, they're going to have to eradicate those dreadful first-half displays because Fernandes will only be able to bail them out of jail so many times, right?..