'The Portuguese guy': Xavi rattles Manchester United fans with Bruno Fernandes comments

Barcelona manager Xavi looks on during the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off first leg match between Barcelona and Manchester United at the Camp Nou on 16 February, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain.
(Image credit: Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Manchester United (opens in new tab) host Barcelona (opens in new tab) in the second leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off on Thursday night, and visiting manager Xavi has caused quite a stir among the home fans in the build-up.

Speaking ahead of the game, Xavi heaped praise upon his opposite number Erik ten Hag, giving the Dutchman credit for the transformed performances of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho this season.

But the Barca and Spain legend referenced Bruno Fernandes in rather more vague terms, calling him simply as "the Portuguese guy".

In an interview with The Times, Xavi – whose side drew 2-2 with United in last week's first leg at the Camo Nou – said (opens in new tab):

"He [Ten Hag] is very good; I like him a lot. He has built a team and is getting the best out of all his players. That speaks well of him. Tactically, he is very good and he handles the dressing room very well. He is getting all the talent out of his players. You see Sancho, Rashford, the Portuguese guy. And look how Fred is playing..."

Xavi's remark was probably a brief memory lapse on his part rather than a deliberate attempt to throw shade on United's midfield string-puller-in-chief, but it's certainly provoked a reaction from Fernandes aficionados.

United supporters have reacted in their droves on Twitter, making a point of Fernandes' phenomenal form since the beginning of November.

The 28-year-old has provided 10 assists and scored seven goals himself in 22 appearances during that period.

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...