Bruno Fernandes is unafraid of the hostile reception at Elland Road that awaits this weekend as Manchester United try to fight back after Wednesday’s frustrating draw with fierce rivals Leeds.
Having met regularly during the West Yorkshire club’s 16-year Premier League absence, the old foes are now in the unique position of meeting twice in five days.
Erik ten Hag’s United head down the M62 to Elland Road on Sunday, fresh from Wednesday’s nail-biting 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, which saw Leeds on course for a famous victory.
An effort from Wilfried Gnonto and Raphael Varane’s own goal sent the managerless Whites dreaming of victory, only for Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to level as the hosts fell short in their hunt for a winner.
“I think we dominated the whole game,” skipper Fernandes told PA news agency.
“They had two goals, they had some more chances, but nothing really dangerous.
“I think we controlled (the game) very well. We could probably be a little more aggressive on the counter-press sometimes, a little more reactive.
“But I think at the end the team did a great job controlling the game.
“We had a few chances that unfortunately we couldn’t score. They had too many defensive players, they were obviously wasting some time with the goalkeeper.
“That’s also part of the game, their game, so we have to learn from that and make sure we can win games without falling behind.”
Fernandes’ frustration was mixed with pride at the way United recovered with the kind of character and spirit that will be needed in West Yorkshire on Sunday.
The Portuguese scored in last season’s 4-2 win at Elland Road, which hosted a Premier League game between the rivals for fans for the first time since October 2003.
Leeds fans then made themselves heard and did so during Wednesday’s Roses battle, but Fernandes is undeterred by what lies ahead.
“I’m not really worried. clear,” he said.
“With this team, the character we have in this team, the passion, the desire, the togetherness that we have, we are not afraid to go anywhere to play against any opponent.
“I know I will be in good hands with all of them.
“I know this team will give, will fight back, will give the best and will not be afraid to play anything – the field, the stadium or the team.”
The Elland Road encounter will be the fourth game of United’s hectic eight-game schedule in February, culminating in a chance at the Carabao Cup win against Newcastle.
Fernandes has no complaints about the schedule – “if you want to play in the best teams in the world, to play for trophies, you have to be in all competitions,” he said – but know that depth is key.
United were without a number of key players on Wednesday and could be hit with absentees again this weekend, but the return of winger Sancho to the squad is a huge boost.
The 22-year-old was recently given time to recover from physical and mental problems and marked his first league appearance since October with his first goal since September.
“It’s important for everyone because we want to have as many players available for the team as possible,” Fernandes said of Sancho’s return.
“Jadon is coming back, he’s getting his minutes, he’s scored his goal.
“Hopefully it will be a big boost for us and for him for the rest of the season because we need everyone to be at their best.
“We know what Jadon can bring to the team. We know his qualities, what he can give us, so we are very happy to have him back in the team.
“Because as you saw today he can make a big difference when he plays, from the first 11 or when he comes off the bench.”
Leeds played impressively just two days after Jesse Marsch’s sacking, with the players heeding Michael Skubala’s request to take the game to the hosts.
The interim boss, who may have played his only game as the club looked for a permanent contract, said his strategy for the Old Trafford game was “Don’t be passive, be aggressive, be free and attack them.”
He added: “The most rewarding part was the final moments, seeing the match.
“Let’s have a good structure, be hard to beat, let’s try to score goals and be positive. At the end we had to dig deep and show personality to get through the game.”