Man Utd have new Ronaldo and Fernandes pairing that may save Erik ten Hag’s job

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Erik ten Hag needs a repeat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes’ heroics in Manchester United’s last Champions League campaign to avoid being dumped out in the group stage. United have suffered a disastrous start, losing both Group A fixtures, and are staring an early exit in the face to draw further pressure on Ten Hag’s job.

The Red Devils were welcomed back to the Champions League after a year-long absence with a tricky group-stage draw.

UEFA pitted Ten Hag’s side against Bundesliga overlords Bayern Munich – now unbeaten in 36 group-stage games – Galatasaray and Copenhagen, both posing hostile away tests.

United conceded four times in their curtain-raiser at Bayern, losing 4-3, but more concerningly fell to a shock 3-2 defeat to Galatasaray at Old Trafford last week.

It leaves United in a state of jeopardy, rock-bottom on no points, with Bayern on six, Galatasaray on four and Copenhagen on one.

United were equally unconvincing in the 2021/22 Champions League group stage, topping Group F despite winning just three of their fixtures.

The M16 giants lost their opener at BSC Young Boys and needed late Ronaldo heroics to record comeback wins at home against Villarreal and Atalanta to avoid a calamity.

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Ronaldo then came in clutch again to salvage a crucial draw away at Atalanta before scoring a sixth goal of the campaign in a victory at Villarreal.

United could only draw against Young Boys at Old Trafford but topped the group with 11 points, setting up a last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid, which ended in a narrow defeat.

Fernandes also heavily contributed to the campaign, providing more assists than any other player in the competition (seven) despite exiting at such an early stage.

Given Bayern’s formidable record, topping Group A already seems out of the question. However, Ten Hag needs his top stars to step up and prevent dropping into the Europa League or exiting Europe altogether.

In United’s disappointing opening defeats, two players have produced the goods, replicating Ronaldo and Fernandes’ exploits from 2021.

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Rasmus Hojlund has scored three goals in his opening two Champions League appearances, and Marcus Rashford has two assists to his name.

The pair have struck up a bright partnership in the early stages of the 20-year-old Dane’s United career.

They must continue producing in Europe to escape a humiliating scenario that would inflict further uncertainty over Ten Hag’s security as United boss.

The Red Devils host Copenhagen next – a must-win affair – before back-to-back trips to the Danish capital and Istanbul to face Galatasaray await.

Ronaldo and Fernandes undoubtedly delayed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s eventual sacking in 2021. Hojlund and Rashford can prevent Ten Hag’s.

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