Bruno Fernandes’ antics at Anfield have been met with criticism, with some former players saying the Portuguese international should lose the captaincy for his petulant performance in Manchester United’s 7-0 drubbing by Liverpool on Sunday.
Fernandes, who has 57 goals in 166 games for the club in all competitions, is the current captain in the absence of Harry Maguire but showed his frustration on numerous occasions during United’s heaviest defeat ever in the Premier League.
“There are people that are far better qualified to be captain,” former striker Chris Sutton, who won the league title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995, told the BBC on Monday.
“Fernandes is not their best leader. I think he should never put on the armband again for Manchester United.”
In a team meltdown that United coach Erik ten Hag called “unprofessional” and “a surprise”, the body language of Fernandes stood out as perhaps the worst. On one play, the 28-year-old let Liverpool’s Stefan Bajcetic breeze past, raising his hands in an exasperated gesture rather than giving chase.
Sutton called it a “standout moment”.
“However bad United were, you cannot just let someone run away from you and give up. That’s what the captain of Manchester United did - and that’s a bad look.
“I don’t think he has any real arguments if he does get stripped of the captaincy,” he added. “I think Bruno’s days have to be numbered.”
Former United captain Roy Keane called the senior players “embarrassing,” and said they lacked any leadership skills. “When the going got tough, they went missing,” Keane said.
Match pundit and former United skipper Gary Neville called Fernandes a “disgrace” and “embarrassing at times” on Sky Sports.
Another second-half moment that rankled some was when Fernandes went down clutching his face in a dramatic display of pain, while replays showed a trailing hand from Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate had actually grazed his chest.
The Portuguese also appeared to nudge the linesman in the 81st minute.
Maguire, who has spent much of the season on the bench with injury, could leave Old Trafford in the close season, meaning the captain’s armband will be up for grabs.
United arrived at Anfield on an 11-game unbeaten streak and days removed from beating Newcastle United in the League Cup final and securing a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals with a victory over West Ham United.
Sunday’s loss - United’s worst in the top flight since 1931 - all but extinguished the team’s title hopes, throwing cold water on talk of sweeping all four trophies up for grabs.
It has little time to dust itself off before hosting Real Betis in the Europa League last 16 first leg on Thursday.
United forward Alejandro Garnacho vowed his team will show up to play.
“We are so sorry,” the 18-year-old said on Twitter. “We will give you a reaction on Thursday, Reds.”