Portuguese international midfielder Bruno Fernandes was full of positivity after Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners against Crystal Palace at Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Red Devil’s jaunt down under ahead of the 2022-23 Premier League season.
Most of the talk surrounding the club has been about new taskmaster Erik ten Hag after the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford in the wake of a highly-successful tenure with Eredivisie giants AFC Ajax, prompting many to feel that - perhaps finally - the club found the right man to take United forward.
The improvement in performance has already been hinted at by many this pre-season as United have won three on the spin against bitter rivals Liverpool and Melbourne Victory before dispatching Patrick Vieira’s Eagles today, and Fernandes echoed those sentiments in his post-match interview which included former club manager Bryan Robson.
“We’re feeling good obviously. The results help on that. I think playing good football, a lot of things to improve yet, but we’ll have time to get better and be ready for the first game of the season.”
Robson was then addressed regarding how United has thus far aggressive pressed in pre-season while “playing the United way that your teams had” to which he spoke openly with Fernandes in detail about his observations of the press, positive transitions, and much-improved teamwork across the pitch.
Fernandes responded in turn; “I think we have been much more aggressive now, even, firstly the three guys up front; they have been aggressive, and when they press they press really strong. It makes the last line squeeze, it makes the midfield come a little bit higher and makes when we recover the ball a little closer to the goal too. So, we are more fresh to do that, we have more freedom when we recover the ball, and when we recover they are really wide so loads of spaces in the middle. And as you said before, we are playing much better on the ball, too.”
It certainly comes as no surprise that United have improved dramatically thus far in their ability to press under Ten Hag, who was highly praised for the system he instilled while at Ajax, which certainly played a vital role in their run to the semi-finals of the Champions League back in 2018-19.
Though there are only so many conclusions that can be drawn from pre-season, what is undeniable is that Ten Hag has already made headway in establishing his tactical framework on the team given early evidence, which could be a springboard for the club to jump back into the top-four conversation in the coming campaign.