Manchester United defied the odds in securing Champions League football after their 2-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday.
Having been 14 points behind their opponents as recently as January, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer understandably wore a huge smile in his post-match interview at King Power Stadium.
However, qualification for Europe’s premier competition shouldn’t mask the work still required at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have been linked with a number of high-profile arrivals this summer – namely Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish – and on the basis of their performance against the Foxes, they’ll need plenty of summer reinforcements.
United have been in scintillating form since the restart, with Bruno Fernandes in particular producing some eye-catching performances as Solskjaer’s side picked up six wins and three draws from their nine league games.
However, the Portugal international had undoubtedly his worst game in a United shirt against Leicester – despite opening the scoring from the penalty spot – and with the orchestrator of Solskjaer’s side not on song, the rest of the team reverted back to pre-Fernandes Manchester United.
Misplaced passes and a general lack of creativity marred the midfielder’s afternoon, with the only real moment of quality he produced coming as he tucked away Paul Pogba’s clever ball over the top, only to be flagged offside.
The knock-on effect of Fernandes’ flat display was evident throughout the United side, however, one player who suffered in particular was Marcus Rashford. The England forward looked completely out of sorts, regularly dropping deep in a bid to have more of an influence on the game – subsequently leaving Anthony Martial completely isolated.
Not only was his general play poor, his finishing wasn’t that of a player who has notched 17 Premier League goals this season. With Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood bereft of service, the pair had little impact on the game; the former finally springing into life with 20 minutes to go and winning his side the penalty which Fernandes converted.
United have undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds since Fernandes’ arrival in January. However, the display at Leicester was the first indication that the team hasn’t actually improved much – Fernandes is the only improvement and he’s subsequently made the team look better.
The rest of the side looked far from a team that had gone 14 league games unbeaten, and they were ultimately left looking at the Portuguese magician in the hope that he would produce.
While every team naturally has a best player, no team wanting to compete at the top end of the Premier League should look utterly lost when their talisman has an off day. Fernandes is in dire need of support, otherwise United will almost certainly become unstuck next season.