Erik ten Hag has just discovered Manchester United’s most important partnership
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke had a special connection playing for Manchester United, scoring 53 goals in the 1998/99 season. Some felt that partnership would never be beaten at Old Trafford, but along came Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, who wreaked havoc on Premier League defences and Sir Alex Ferguson had two of the world’s best players in his team.
The importance of such relationships in football can’t be understated. Any successful team has partnerships across the pitch in all different positions and Erik ten Hag’s current team is further evidence of that following an encouraging campaign.
Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have a brilliant understanding at centre-back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Antony have an unlikely connection on the right – the winger can’t speak fluent English – and Bruno Fernandes‘ relationship with Marcus Rashford is brilliantly effective.
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Although the impact the centre-backs have made has been lauded, the connection between Fernandes and Rashford perhaps hasn’t been as obvious, however, their connection has been equally as important as the understanding between the first-choice central defenders, who are both currently sidelined.
Rashford discussed playing with Fernandes after the Anfield debacle and he said: “I love playing with Bruno, as you can imagine. He’s the perfect player to play with. He’s been a good leader for us, even when he’s not captain, which is always a good sign.
“He’s helped other players become better leaders and the reality is that we can’t be an organised team in terms of just one leader being captain. He’s done a lot for us. I don’t have anything negative to say about Bruno. I’m 100% behind him.”
Fernandes was heavily criticised for his attitude in the Anfield post-mortem and it was unsurprising to see Rashford give him his unwavering support. The pair are close on the pitch and they are both instrumental in the dressing room.
The statistics also confirm the visual impression, as Fernandes has created a total of 34 chances for Rashford in the Premier League this season, which is more than any other player has set up for a team-mate in the 2022/23 competition.
If that statistic wasn’t impressive enough, since this information became available to Opta in 2006/07, that number (34 chances) has only been bettered on two occasions, which highlights the level the pair are operating at together.
Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane are the current holders for most chances created by one player for another. Eriksen teed up 40 scoring opportunities for Harry Kane during Tottenham’s 2017/18 season and that record could be surpassed this term.
There are four league games against Wolves, Bournemouth, Chelsea and Fulham remaining for United this season and Fernandes and Rashford are guaranteed starters proving they stay fit, which means surpassing the record will be possible.
Fernandes is one of the finest attacking midfielders in the world when at his best and he’s bound to have a say on whether United will finish in the top four. His creativity will be required and his relationship with Rashford could be decisive.
Rashford has scored just twice since the beginning of April and his goals have started to dry up, a possibility which has been a concern all season, but if Fernandes can keep on creating good chances for him, he is likely to take advantage.
Regardless of whether the pair break the chances created record, their partnership has blossomed throughout this season.
Rashford was definitely being sincere when he said Fernandes is the ‘perfect player’ to walk out alongside.
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