Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. 0 AFP/Oli SCARFF

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has praised Bruno Fernandes, saying the midfielder "has so many skills" ahead of their upcoming clash with Southampton.

Ten Hag's comments have come amid criticism against Fernandes following Manchester United's humiliating 7-0 defeat to Liverpool FC. The Portuguese midfielder is one of the Red Devils players to have been berated for the team's performance in Merseyside last week.

Following the Liverpool game, Manchester United faced off against Real Betis in the Europa League, and Ten Hag went with an unchanged side from their Anfield outing, in a bid to give his boys a chance to redeem themselves. Fernandes, who is Manchester United's stand-in captain, did not disappoint his coach this time as he was one of the scorers in their 4-1 win.

With the focus set to shift back to the Premier League, Manchester United are scheduled to host Southampton at Old Trafford on Sunday. Ahead of the clash, Ten Hag lauded Fernandes' personality and his header against Real Betis.

"I think today he showed big personality by giving this performance and leading the team, and I thought it was brilliant. He seemed to enjoy that goal and he seemed to be extra fired up, as if he had a point to prove," Ten Hag told reporters.

Speaking about Fernandes' scoring skills, Ten Hag pointed out the midfielder's versatile approach.

"Yeah, but I think he has so many skills, and now scoring with his head from a corner. I think he scores with his right, with his left, and with his head. He is creating final passes and I think, of course, he is very happy when he scores a goal because that's important and you can celebrate, and he did together, in togetherness with his fans," the Dutch boss added further.

In the 2022-23 Premier League, Fernandes has netted five goals and six assists in 24 appearances. Overall, the Portuguese national has scored eight goals and provided 12 assists for the Red Devils across competitions in the current season and has been a big impact as Ten Hag and Co are alive in every competition on offer for them. Manchester United have already clinched one silverware this campaign by triumphing in the League Cup, which marked their first trophy since the 2016-17 season.

'Bruno is an inspiration'

After the 7-0 loss to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, there were also questions raised against Fernandes' suitability as Manchester United's captain in the absence of Harry Maguire. However, Ten Hag came in support of the talented midfielder, saying "he's an inspiration" in the dressing room.

Ten Hag said that Fernandes has played a "really important role" in Manchester United's fine run this season.

"He's coaching players, he's an inspiration, but no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. We have to learn, he has to learn, he will because he's intelligent, I'm happy to have Bruno Fernandes in the team and that he's captain when Harry isn't on the pitch," Ten Hag said in an interview.

In regards to what Fernandes needs to learn, Ten Hag said the player needs to show "more controlled emotions." Ten Hag went on to add that emotion is Fernandes' "weapon", but sometimes the player goes overboard with it.

"I help him, I support him, and I give him feedback. Sometimes he has to show more controlled emotions that will help him to stay in the ratio of the game instead of the emotion. So, he has to find the balance to be in the ratio," added Ten Hag.

While Manchester United are competing in the Round of 16 in the Europa League, they have qualified for the quarter-final of the FA Cup, where they are due to meet Fulham next week. With 49 points from 25 matches, Manchester United are placed third in the Premier League table but are 14 points behind leaders Arsenal.