Bruno Fernandes has refuted accusations of going missing for Manchester United in big games, with the Portuguese playmaker defending his record against fellow members of the so-called ‘big six’.
He does, however, have just one non-penalty effort this season across eight outings against other Premier League heavyweights Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.
What has been said?
Fernandes has told Sky Sports on questions over his record in games that matter most: “I don't know what people mean by 'top six', because the teams are in top six in the table. I score and assist against some of them. I score this season against Tottenham. But some people say penalties don't count!
“I know people expect Bruno to score or assist in every game because when I arrived, I was playing really well. If you see my stats, everyone is thinking that Bruno has to score in every game, Bruno has to assist in every game.
“And I want to do that - it's the most important thing. But as a player, I don't look for the big six or the rest of the league. I look for every game in the same way. And I think the league is not a sprint, it's a marathon. So you don't have to score or win against the big six - you have to score and win against everyone.
“I see people talking about Bruno not doing so well against the 'big six'. People have said Bruno gives the ball away too many times when we lose a game.
“Also, in the game against Basaksehir, I scored two goals and I lost more balls than their team, but people said I was the best player in the game. So, what is the point?
“But I agree the last two games, I didn't play very well. And I don't need to see the stats to see if I play well or not. I know when I play well or not.
“I saw an interview from Luke (Shaw) saying, 'people now care more about stats than the performance'. And this is the truth. Because now they're expecting from me just goals and assists, and not performances.
“They don't care about the performance of Bruno, they don't care about ball recovery or how many chances I create, because I can create 10 chances but if I don't score, people will say Bruno didn't play very well.
“But this is football. Football is in the moment. Some people have said I'm playing bad, and that I have to do better. And I agree, because we always can do better. But for me, it's OK. I can have that pressure on my back.
“I'm sure in some moments, I will score, I will assist, and I will perform. And that will help my team-mates to win the game.”
The bigger picture
Fernandes has only two non-penalty goals in his last 13 outings for United against any opposition.
His value to the collective cause remains without question, though, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue to lean heavily on him.
The Red Devils remain in the hunt for FA Cup and Europa League glory this season, while a Premier League derby date with table-topping Manchester City is next on the agenda for a side that has not given up hope on reining their arch-rivals in.