Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Evans, Fernandes combine to secure crucial Man United win

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2023 | 12:13 AM

Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (second right) celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s only goal against Burnley in an English  Premier League football match at Turf Moor, in Burnley, England yesterday.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (second right) celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s only goal against Burnley in an English Premier League football match at Turf Moor, in Burnley, England yesterday.

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

IT WAS no surprise to see Bruno Fernandes come up with a clutch moment when Manchester United needed it most.

Few, however, would have expected veteran defender Jonny Evans to provide the assist for the Portuguese midfielder’s winning goal at Burnley on Saturday.

Evans himself thought such moments for him in a United shirt were long gone.

“When you get to a certain age, you start to wind down your career,” said the 35-year-old centre back, who made his 200th appearance for the club more than eight years since his last start.

The Northern Ireland international, who left United for West Bromwich Albion in 2015, rejoined as a free agent in the off season.

“It was never a thought that I would come in and be a starter,” he said after the 1-0 win at Turf Moor. “I was told that my role would be to provide competition, and that is how I have approached it.”

A spate of injuries saw Evans start at Burnley as Erik ten Hag looked to end a three-match losing run and kick-start his team’s faltering season.

Evans was at the heart of United’s first clean sheet since the opening day of the campaign, and provided a long-range pass for Fernandes to lash home the winner.

“We have problems and, in this moment, a lot is against us: injuries, decisions, and we have all seen the examples,” said ten Hag. “We are very happy to have a player like Jonny Evans in the squad. He comes in and he is calm, composed, has character, a good skill set. When you have things against you, you can bounce back when you have the character in the squad to do that.”

It will take more than victory against winless Burnley to prove United has turned a corner, but this was a welcome positive for ten Hag in a season that has looked in danger of unravelling.

With his team going into the game having lost its last three games in all competitions, the Dutch coach was candid about the importance of the result with pressure mounting.

A tough run

“It was clear. Of course, we needed that win,” he said. “We had a tough run of games against good opponents. It wasn’t necessary to lose those games. Today was must-win.”

United had lost three of its opening five games in the league and had just suffered a 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday. The club was trying to avoid a fourth straight defeat for the first time since 2015.

That run had come under ten Hag’s Dutch compatriot Louis van Gaal, who was fired at the end of that season.

Ten Hag’s problems have been compounded by a host of injuries to key players such as Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Lisandro Martinez, while he has also had to contend with off-field issues involving Mason Greenwood, Antony and Jadon Sancho.

“You have to fight and find a turning point,” said the United manager. “It shows the dressing room is together. They fight together.”

The win moved United up to eighth in the standings, but it remains nine points behind leader Manchester City, which beat Nottingham Forest 2-0.

Ten Hag can now look ahead to a sequence of games he would expect his side to win to build confidence and momentum.

United have a run of five home games out of its next six in all competitions, before hosting City on October 29.

Yesterday’s EPL Results

Burnley 0-1 Man Utd

Brentford 1-3 Everton

Crystal Palace 0-0 Fulham

Man City 2-0 Nottingham

Luton 1-1 Wolves