Football's governing bodies must do more to protect referees amid a "considerable rise" in abuse that has often been met with a "silent" response.

That was the message from Ref Support chief executive Martin Cassidy, who referenced issues with Bruno Fernandes, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andrew Robertson in the Premier League this season.

Fernandes appeared to make contact with an assistant referee in Liverpool's 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United, while Mitrovic was banned for eight games after pushing Chris Kavanagh.

Robertson was another involved in an altercation with an official, when assistant referee Constantine Hatzidakis seemingly made contact with the Liverpool left-back with his elbow, though the official faced no further punishment after an investigation.

A couple of seasons earlier, former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero came under scrutiny for placing his hand on the shoulder of assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis during a home victory over Arsenal. 

Cassidy believes the response to the rise in these issues has been inadequate, calling on the likes of the League Managers Association (LMA) and Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) to do more.

He told Stats Perform: "From a domestic point of view, what's been going on over here with the situations that [there has been] a considerable rise in contact with match officials from what's happened with Sian Massey-Ellis, Bruno Fernandes, Mitrovic, Robertson – it’s on the rise.

"When's it going to stop? And there are people who are silent on this who shouldn't be silent on this – the LMA, the PFA and even the Football Supporters' Association, they're all quiet on this, they comment on everything else.

"They will talk all these white papers and governments, and they tweet about enough is enough about things [that are important] to them, but they never come out and publicly condemn their behaviour by their members.

"The LMA never do it. We wrote to them, and we got a very benign, weak response. [The] PFA never say anything about the behaviour of their players – their members.

"Certainly, there never seems to be any stance from supporters associations who really want to stand up and say: 'Look, we are going to do something here, what's the protocols, what's the code of conduct for managers in the LMA, what is the code of conduct for a professional footballer with regard to how they behave with these post-match comments here?'

"So, there are a lot of silent people here who need to step up like the FA have in this country. When these people criticise the FA, the LMA and the PFA need to look at themselves and say what they are doing to address the situation that's caused directly by their members."

Cassidy acknowledged the problems span wider than English football, with the ill-tempered Europa League final between Roma and Sevilla marred by abuse of referee Anthony Taylor after the game.

Aside from refereeing issues, the ongoing racially motivated problems with Vinicius Junior and Spanish football continue – and Cassidy believes UEFA must improve.

"UEFA hasn't really got a good track record on what they've done with racism," he added. "So, they have been quite weak on that really and very erratic.

"Look at what has happened in Spain, they haven't really taken control of that. So, I'm not very hopeful that they'll respond to this in a manner that football wants it to respond to, but hopefully they prove us wrong.

"UEFA does, in particular with the UEFA foundation, some wonderful stuff. But when it comes to stuff like this, they don't seem to – look at what happened in the Champions League final last year, Liverpool-Real Madrid – they never really covered themselves in glory there.

"Let's take this opportunity, UEFA, let's make the game better. Let's come out hard and tough and let's send a message that this behaviour is totally unacceptable in our game."

Bruno Fernandes scored his first Premier League goal in nearly three months as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to take another big step towards securing a top-four finish.

United threw away a two-goal lead in the midweek draw with Spurs that upset their momentum a little, but returned to winning ways against a Villa side who were threatening to enter top-four contention.

One of the Premier League's form teams since Unai Emery's October appointment, Villa went close to an opener first, though United were good value for the lead when Fernandes punished questionable goalkeeping from Emiliano Martinez.

Despite putting Villa under intense pressure for much of the second half, additional goals were not forthcoming for United, who were ultimately indebted to Victor Lindelof's late goal-line clearance as they held on.

United were also fortunate not to concede in the 19th minute when Diogo Dalot nudged Emiliano Buendia's pass into Alex Moreno's path, the Spaniard's powerful drive crucially blocked by David de Gea.

They nearly capitalised on the let-off nine minutes later, Jadon Sancho teeing up Casemiro to hit the crossbar from 16 yards.

But the breakthrough did arrive just before half-time, Fernandes squeezing in from a tight angle when Martinez could only parry Marcus Rashford's initial effort.

While United continued to dominate after half-time, their final pass was generally dreadful, with Sancho and Christian Eriksen making particularly poor decisions at crucial moments in the attacking third.

Villa almost took full advantage, but Lindelof managed to head Douglas Luiz's shot clear from under the bar, with United surviving late pressure.

Bruno Fernandes has "a question mark" over his fitness, Erik ten Hag said ahead of Manchester United's Premier League clash with Tottenham.

The midfielder was forced off during United's FA Cup semi-final win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday with an ankle injury and was later pictured in a protective boot.

With Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane already sidelined in a blow to United's defence, the loss of Fernandes would hurt Ten Hag's side going forward.

But on the eve of the trip to Spurs, the manager could not confirm whether Fernandes would be available.

But the Dutchman is not ready to reveal whether the midfielder will sit out their crucial encounter with Spurs or if he could yet be available to feature.

"There are some unavailable," he said. "Martinez, Varane. We have to see how Bruno Fernandes is. We don't know yet. He is a question mark.

"It's more often that players [wear the boot], that we protect them. But [the ankle] has to settle down. We all have seen he played the full game [90 minutes before extra time].

"It happened in the first half. [The game is] Thursday, so tomorrow is quick, but we have to see what is possible."

The win on penalties at Wembley was an effective tonic for an ailing United side after they had lost emphatically at Sevilla to crash out of the Europa League three days earlier.

David de Gea and Harry Maguire both committed costly errors leading to goals in that game, but Ten Hag has continued to talk up their character as the pair recover.

"They are resilient," he said. "They are able to do it. It's not easy, but they can do it. You can have a bad setback but show your character to bounce back.

"I am the Manchester United manager. I have to make sure our players are ready tomorrow against a good opponent, good team, good players. I have to focus [and make sure] they have energy."

Now, United will face a Tottenham team reeling from a 6-1 rout at the hands of top-four rivals Newcastle United last time out.

Harry Kane, who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford, scored the only Spurs goal.

"It's quite clear, his impact on the game for Spurs," Ten Hag said of Kane. "We have a plan for that. You have to defend as a team. He's a clever player, he can have a big impact on the game."

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes is seemingly a fitness concern for the final weeks of the season after being photographed with a protective boot and crutches.

Fernandes suffered an ankle injury during Sunday's FA Cup semi-final penalties win over Brighton and Hove Albion, appearing to twist his foot awkwardly in the turf.

Although he was able to continue until his eventual withdrawal in extra time, Fernandes was seen limping on the touchline before full-time and during the shoot-out.

Now it would appear the damage he sustained was more significant than first thought, with the 28-year-old's wife posting a photo to Twitter on Monday showing him sitting on a sofa wearing a protective boot and having crutches within reach.

As such, it seems extremely unlikely he will be able to feature for United when they go to Tottenham on Thursday. They host Aston Villa three days later.

United have not provided any official updates about Fernandes' condition or availability, with Erik ten Hag not due to face the media until Wednesday.

Fernandes has been one of United's most reliable performers this season, with the Portugal international clearly considered key by Ten Hag given his 4,363 minutes played is over 600 more than any other outfield player in the squad.

He also leads United for chances created (146 – Christian Eriksen is second with 61), assists (11) and expected assists (14.4) – for the latter metric, Marcus Rashford is second with just 5.2.

Fernandes (21) is also one of just two United players to tally more than 11 goal involvements, with Rashford leading the way on 36.

United were last without Fernandes on Thursday, with the Red Devils losing 3-0 to Sevilla and suffering Europa League elimination in his absence.


Erik ten Hag told Manchester United to "look in the mirror" and cut out their costly errors as he deployed a Dutch idiom to explain how he saved Bruno Fernandes from a costly Europa League red card.

The United manager threw his support behind Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, who could both get a run in the team after injuries to Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane blighted Thursday's 2-2 draw with Sevilla at Old Trafford.

He also said it was too soon to gauge the severity of those injuries, even though he has his private suspicions.

Ten Hag then brought a touch of levity to a routine pre-match press conference, ahead of Sunday's trip to Nottingham Forest, when he explained why he substituted playmaker Fernandes against Sevilla.

The Dutch boss suspected his Portuguese star was at risk of being sent off, having thrown the ball away after already being booked, and he guessed any further indiscipline would see the key man ordered off.

"I don't want to take a risk. Where I come from, they call it 'looking a cow in the ass'. We call it that in my region of the Netherlands," Ten Hag said.

United were 2-0 up at the time of the substitution, with Christian Eriksen taking over from Fernandes.

Late own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Maguire scuppered hopes of victory in the first leg of the quarter-final, however, after Marcel Sabitzer's early double had put United in control.

"We had back luck definitely with injuries and the goals," Ten Hag said. "But you can avoid it, and we had to avoid it, so we also have to look in the mirror."

Asked about the injuries, Ten Hag could not specify how long Martinez and Varane may face on the sidelines. Reports Martinez may have a broken metatarsal were brushed aside but not denied.

Ten Hag said: "I don't have a complete diagnosis, so I can't say in this moment. When we have news we will give it straight to you.

"But let's do the medical, do their assessment and get a complete diagnosis, and then we will give the news. But I think it doesn't change in this moment. I have an idea, but I don't go with speculation."

He wants Maguire and Lindelof to prove their value to the team, although Maguire must miss next week's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion due to suspension.

Ten Hag said he had "a lot" of faith in both defenders, who have faced criticism in the past, saying: "They are decent centre-halves. We have four or five very good centre-halves who can do the job."

What Ten Hag would have no time for is anyone who might see it as a big demand to come into the first team from out in the cold.

"I think then you're finding excuses and when you want to find excuses or set excuses then you don't have to play at Man United and you have to look for another club," Ten Hag said. "You have to wait for your moment and when your moment is there you have to contribute and to bring your performance, this is what we demand."

Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw, both absent against Sevilla, could be back on duty at the City Ground this weekend.

French forward Anthony Martial will also be involved but is unlikely to play 90 minutes as United manage his fitness after a recent hip problem.

"Maybe he can, but it's a risk," said Ten Hag, "and we can't take that risk at this moment because we don't have so many options in the front line with [Marcus] Rashford and [Alejandro] Garnacho injured, so we have to be careful."

Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia put through their own goal late on as Manchester United squandered a comfortable lead in a 2-2 draw against Sevilla in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.

Captain Maguire deflected into his own net in the 92nd minute, just eight minutes after Malacia had turned past David de Gea as Sevilla somehow found a way back at Old Trafford in the quarter-final first leg.

A Marcel Sabitzer first-half double appeared to have Erik ten Hag's hosts in complete control, only for the late drama to leave United reeling by full-time.

Jose Luis Mendilibar's side will boast home advantage in a week's time as they eye a seventh Europa League title since the 2006-07 season.

Jadon Sancho fired past Sevilla keeper Bono with less than 30 seconds on the clock, only to be curtailed by a late offside flag.

A smart Bono stop denied Antony soon after, though the goalkeeper could do little two minutes later as Bruno Fernandes found Sabitzer, whose strike deflected into the top-left corner.

Sabitzer added his second just six minutes later after latching onto Anthony Martial's throughball and drilling past Bono.

De Gea kept United's lead intact at the interval after producing an expert save against a Tanguy Nianzou header from Ivan Rakitic's corner.

Antony twice went close after the break, whipping a curling effort wide before seeing a similar attempt smash off Bono's right post.

Christian Eriksen's 62nd-minute introduction after three months out injured came as United seemed set for victory, only for Malacia to offer Sevilla hope when turning Jesus Navas' low cross into his own net.

Sevilla then seized an unlikely comeback in the closing stages as Youssef En-Nesyri's header fortuitously deflected off Maguire and wrongfooted De Gea.

What does it mean? Sevilla record plays Devil in United's mind

United defeated Real Sociedad in the group stages and edged past LaLiga leaders Barcelona in the first knockout round before comfortably dispatching Real Betis in the last 16.

Their impressive run against Spanish sides appeared all but certain to continue until the late drama, as Sevilla maintained their streak of never losing against United, with this their third European meeting.

With that record in the back of United's minds at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Ten Hag will have to find a way past Mendilibar's side, who will be buoyed with confidence following their late fightback.

Fantastic Fernandes withdrawn

Fernandes has 60 goals and 50 assists since his United debut in February 2020, with Lionel Messi (80G, 59A) the only other player in Europe's top-five leagues to hit half-centuries for both those returns in that period.

Yet Ten Hag opted to withdraw the midfielder for Eriksen, a decision that proved costly and United's misery will be compounded as Fernandes will miss the second leg due to his first-half caution.

United gift Sevilla chance

United could have extended their lead multiple times in the second half, boosting hopes of a treble after winning the EFL Cup and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

But after United became just the second English side to score two own goals in a single match in a major European competition, after Chelsea against Ten Hag's Ajax in November 2019, Sevilla will fancy their chances.

What's next?

Before the return leg in Spain, United visit Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Sunday, when Sevilla travel to Valencia in LaLiga.

Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia put through their own goal late on as Manchester United squandered a comfortable lead in a 2-2 draw against Sevilla in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.

Captain Maguire deflected into his own net in the 92nd minute, just eight minutes after Malacia had turned past David de Gea as Sevilla somehow found a way back at Old Trafford in the quarter-final first leg.

A Marcel Sabitzer first-half double appeared to have Erik ten Hag's hosts in complete control, only for the late drama to leave United reeling by full-time.

Jose Luis Mendilibar's side will boast home advantage in a week's time as they eye a seventh Europa League title since the 2006-07 season.

Manchester United have enough goalscorers alongside star man Marcus Rashford, according to manager Erik ten Hag.

Rashford has scored 27 of United's 88 goals this season in all competitions, with Bruno Fernandes their next-highest scorer with just 10.

Anthony Martial's time on the pitch has been limited by injuries, while January acquisition Wout Weghorst has failed to prove prolific, having scored just twice since arriving at Old Trafford.

Yet, the Red Devils ended their six-year trophy drought by beating Newcastle United in the EFL Cup final in February and look on course to finish in the Premier League's top four and achieve Champions League qualification for next season.

Despite Rashford's superior contribution in the goals department in relation to his team-mates, Ten Hag feels his side carry enough of a threat to support the 25-year-old, though he did not rule out bringing in more attacking talent ahead of next season.

"I think we have players like Bruno, like Jadon Sancho, like Anthony Martial, like Scott McTominay, like Antony," Ten Hag said. "We have enough players with the capabilities to score goals, definitely.

"I work in the back [behind the scenes] on next season. But we're working now on this season, so first of all make sure everyone is available and keep improving the way of play and that's the best chance of scoring more goals."

McTominay enjoyed a brilliant international break with Scotland, scoring four goals as his national team beat Cyprus 3-0 before stunning giants Spain 2-0 at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

Considering his great form in front of goal and the fact he played as a striker for United's youth teams, McTominay could be a potential option to start up front for the Red Devils with Weghorst failing to fire since joining on loan from Burnley.

But Ten Hag feels the 26-year-old is better playing as a midfielder, while he defended Weghorst's overall impact on United.

"Scott can play in many roles," Ten Hag said.

"It's clear he has scoring capabilities for Scotland but also this season for us. He's a really good finisher, but I see him as a midfielder.

"I think I'm happy with what Wout is doing because when Wout is in the team, the team is performing better."

As his team prepare to face top-four rivals Newcastle United at St James' Park on Sunday, Ten Hag looks set to be boosted by the return of Martial after his recent injury problems.

"He's training for two weeks now," Ten Hag said. "I think he can be in the squad."

Bruno Fernandes does not believe Portugal needed the "breath of fresh air" that Cristiano Ronaldo was looking forward to under Roberto Martinez.

Martinez has taken charge of Portugal for the first time in this international break, having succeeded Fernando Santos following the World Cup.

The former Belgium coach has overseen 4-0 and 6-0 defeats of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg respectively to begin Euro 2024 qualifying.

Captain Ronaldo scored twice in each match, having earlier spoken of "fresh air now, different ideas and mentality" with Martinez at the helm.

Despite the positive start, that is not an assessment team-mate Fernandes agrees with.

"No, it's just a new coach with new ideas," the Manchester United midfielder told RTP3 after Sunday's win against Luxembourg.

"There is no breath of fresh air at all. It's just a transition period.

"The atmosphere in the national team has always been good. There's never been anything that wasn't fresh of the air, so I think it's just new dynamics, new coach, and you have to assimilate his ideas."

Fernandes was handed his Portugal debut by Santos, who had guided the Selecao to their first major honour at Euro 2016.

Portugal failed to build on that strong start to the coach's tenure, however, exiting the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage.

Santos then departed after a shock quarter-final exit at the hands of Morocco at Qatar 2022, with Ronaldo dropped for the knockout rounds.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice as Manchester United secured an FA Cup semi-final place with a 3-1 win over nine-man Fulham, who spectacularly fell apart at Old Trafford.

The Cottagers appeared well on course for a first last-four appearance since 2002 when Aleksandar Mitrovic put them in front five minutes after the break.

But their hopes collapsed as the tie descended into chaos when Chris Kavanagh's decision to award the hosts a penalty 18 minutes from time resulted in Willian and Mitrovic being sent off.

United capitalised on their numerical advantage as they completed a turnaround with Fernandes netting twice and Marcel Sabitzer also on target.

Erik ten Hag is happy for Bruno Fernandes to keep playing with emotion, although he acknowledges there is a balance to strike for the Manchester United midfielder.

Fernandes scored in United's 4-1 win against Real Betis on Thursday having been the subject of intense scrutiny since Sunday's 7-0 loss at Liverpool.

The United vice-captain, who wore the armband at Anfield, was criticised for his role in a defeat in which Ten Hag's side appeared to lack leadership.

A confrontation with Trent Alexander-Arnold, followed by a push on an official, perhaps saw Fernandes fortunate not to be sent off.

Both Ten Hag and Marcus Rashford defended Fernandes ahead of the Betis game, however, and the manager was encouraged by his subsequent performance, even if there is still work to do to "stay rational" at all times.

"I was very pleased with his captaincy because he is giving the team energy," Ten Hag said ahead of Sunday's Premier League match against Southampton.

"He is not only giving the best physical output of the whole team, but also he is running in the right direction and is pointing players in that direction. He's coaching players, leading the team from a tactical perspective.

"His emotion is his weapon. But sometimes it's too strong. And yes, of course, I help him and support him. And I give him feedback.

"Sometimes he has to control his emotions, and that will help him to stay rational in the game, instead of the emotion.

"So, he has to find the balance and be rational, when to use [being] rational as a tool and when to use emotion as a tool, and that's the next step.

"I think that's a nice development point for him, and when he does it, he will be an even better player."

Meanwhile, Ten Hag offered an update on Christian Eriksen, who was ruled out for "an extended period" at the end of January due to an ankle injury.

"I think he will play [again this season], yes, definitely," Ten Hag said. "But I can't say now when [he is] expected.

"I think his progress in the rehab is okay. It's going according to plan and so we will definitely see him, but not before the international break.

"His main focus at this moment is to get back as soon as possible because we need all the players."

Erik ten Hag labelled Bruno Fernandes "an inspiration" as the Manchester United manager leapt to the defence of his vice-captain after attracting criticism in the wake of Sunday's thrashing by Liverpool. 

The Portuguese midfielder was chastised for his performance and attitude during United's humiliating 7-0 defeat at Anfield, with critics suggesting he should lose the armband, which he wears in the absence of out-of-favour club captain Harry Maguire.

However, Ten Hag dismissed those suggestions and is optimistic his on-field captain will respond well to the weekend's hardships. 

"Everyone has to learn, I have to learn, he will learn as well because he's intelligent," the Dutch manager said at a press conference ahead of his side's Europa League first-leg fixture against Real Betis.

"He's an inspiration for the whole team but no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. I'm really happy to have Bruno in the team and really happy that if Harry Maguire isn't on the pitch then Bruno is the captain. 

"He's been playing a brilliant season, he has a really important role for why we are in the position we are because he's giving energy to the team, running a lot at the highest intensity, but also in the right way, right direction, and he's pointing and coaching players."

Marcus Rashford seconded his manager's thoughts and threw his full support behind Fernandes, whom he believes has been invaluable since joining from Sporting CP in 2020.

He said: "I love playing with Bruno, as you can imagine. I think, for a forward like me, he's a perfect player to play with. 

"He's been a good leader for us even when not captain, which is always a good sign. He's helped others become better leaders. 

"Nobody's perfect and sometimes you want to win so bad that you end up doing things that are a little out of character. 

"I 100 per cent support Bruno and I'm behind him, and I think as a team we have to support him because he's a fantastic player and as the boss said, we wouldn't be in the position that we're in if he wasn't playing games for us."

The Red Devils host Betis on Thursday. The Spanish side – coached by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini – are fifth in La Liga.  

Bruno Fernandes held his hands up for a "frustrating, disappointing and sad" defeat after Manchester United were routed in remarkable fashion at Liverpool.

Erik ten Hag's side were humiliated at Anfield just seven days after their EFL Cup success, suffering their joint-heaviest competitive defeat after a 7-0 obliteration by the Reds.

It marked Liverpool's biggest competitive win over United, surpassing a 7-1 second-tier victory back in October 1895, as Ten Hag's side saw their faint quadruple hopes come to an embarrassing end.

Fernandes was subject to criticism from United greats Roy Keane and Gary Neville on Sky Sports, with his body language and demeanour labelled as an "embarrassment" and "disgraceful" by the pair.

The Portugal international, regularly seen waving his warms in frustration and walking around the pitch, acknowledged Ten Hag's side were humbled after a torrid performance.

He told Sky Sports: "It is very frustrating, disappointing and sad because it is a really bad result. We came here with a different mindset before the game.

"The first half was really good from ourselves, we had a lot of chances. We controlled most of the first half I think, they didn't create that much.

"[In the second half] we tried to go forward and score goals and we lost a bit of balance. We gave too much space away against this kind of team. We have to avoid that."

United host Real Betis in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash on Thursday before Southampton visit Old Trafford three days later in the Premier League.

Ten Hag's men trail leaders Arsenal by 14 points and are just seven clear of fifth-placed Liverpool, with Fernandes calling for a much-needed immediate response.

"The games are coming thick and fast. We had setbacks in the past and we have to come back quickly again," he added. 

"This is what Manchester United are about, we can go down but we have to get back up."

Bruno Fernandes set his sights on delivering more silverware after Manchester United's EFL Cup final win against Newcastle United, declaring one trophy is "not enough" for the Red Devils.

Casemiro's header and Sven Botman's own goal handed United their first trophy under Erik ten Hag on Sunday, as they kept Newcastle at bay at Wembley.

Coming five years and 278 days after their 2017 Europa League final victory against Ajax, United's win ended their longest trophy drought since a six-year wait between their 1977 and 1983 FA Cup triumphs.

United have also been touted as contenders to win the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup in Ten Hag's first season at the helm, and Fernandes wants more.

"It's an amazing feeling obviously, we've been searching for this moment – us, the players and the club, all together," the midfielder told Sky Sports.

"We finally got our trophy, I think deservedly. It's all about winning trophies, and finally we did it. I'm satisfied because finally I have a trophy, but I want more.

"It's been an amazing period obviously, it's the first trophy of the season… but we want more.

"This is not enough for this club. We want more and we need more, for our standards, we need more."

Sunday's win saw United lift the EFL Cup for the sixth time, a tally only bettered by rivals Liverpool (nine) and Manchester City (eight) in the competition's history.

Bruno Fernandes believes the form of Newcastle United is "the biggest surprise of the season" and is expecting a "pretty difficult" EFL Cup final.

Manchester United face Newcastle at Wembley on Sunday, with both teams impressing this season after struggling in the 2021-22 campaign.

As well as reaching the final, United have worked their way into the Premier League title race, while Newcastle remain in the hunt for a top-four spot and Champions League qualification.

"I think everyone knows that Newcastle is being probably the biggest surprise of the season," Fernandes told Sky Sports. "Not because of their qualities, because the quality has been always there, but because last season they struggle to stay in the Premier League and this season they're doing really well.

"I think everyone knows [they are] a pretty strong and intense team. They haven't conceded many goals this season. I think probably the best or the second best in Europe.

"But it's more about us. It's more about what we can do towards them, what we can do in our intensity levels, passion levels and quality-wise. Because we know that it will be a pretty difficult final whoever the opponent will be. It's always difficult because it's a final, the desire, the passion to win a trophy is always at the highest."

United's resurgence has been swift since Erik ten Hag came in as manager from Ajax, including Thursday's victory against Barcelona in the Europa League playoff round.

"He brought his ideas, the discipline during the training sessions, during the week, during the games," Fernandes said. "Obviously I think the most important change is the results and confidence is much higher now at this moment.

"We believe that the process that we are going through is the right one. I think everyone has the right belief. Everyone is following the ideas that the coach has brought to the club, to the team."

The 28-year-old has seven goals and nine assists in 37 games for United this season, and understands that he and his team-mates must keep up the high standards implemented by Ten Hag if they are to have sustained success.

"The process is still on and we have to understand that it's still a long way for us because we want to achieve much bigger things and obviously the manager demands that from us," he said. 

"I have been talking with him sometimes and he's always saying that he has the same desire as me. He is not happy with being behind anyone. So that's a good thing. He brought that culture that we can't be happy to be behind anyone and whenever we are in front, we can't be happy to be with a smaller gap.

"I think that's a great thing to have because we can't be satisfied playing for Man United and not winning trophies and not being in the position of winning trophies.

"But as I said, it is a process. It's six or seven months now and things are going pretty quickly. I think from outside probably more because people never thought that United will be in this position at this time because all the changes, because the new manager, because the results in the beginning. 

"But obviously it's up to us, up to our qualities, up to what we have been doing really well... it's [up to] us to carry on doing our best because we don't want people to forget how good we are."

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