Bruno Fernandes says Manchester United must use the pain of Sunday’s 6-3 derby defeat as fuel for improvement after admitting attitude and belief was lacking from the outset at Manchester City.
A run of four straight Premier League wins under Erik ten Hag came to a shuddering halt on enemy turf as Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks in a one-sided encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
Anthony Martial grabbed two after Antony had scored a stunning consolation, but the damage was already done by that point as United limped into half-time four goals down for the second time this season.
That 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Brentford in August kicked Ten Hag’s men into life and Fernandes said the same must happen this time.
“I think the attitude and the belief from the beginning was not the best and I think it was that that caused us many problems and made us concede early goals,” the stand-in skipper said.
“After we have to run back the result and obviously I think the second half was much better.
“We keep control more, we control more the game. Whenever we have the ball we are more brave.
“Obviously we’re down on the result, so we had to take some risks – and obviously when you take that risk you score straight away, you try to go a little bit more [attacking] and you concede more goals. Against teams like City, you can’t give that much space to them.
“Obviously we are really disappointed but now it’s time to focus on the next game and understand that we have to get back in the performances that we did before – in the belief and everything, in the togetherness principle – and understand that this cannot get us down. It has to make us improve for the future.”
Put to Fernandes that it is a process under Ten Hag and the loss acted as a reminder that there remain improvements to make, he said: “That’s obvious after this result.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough game, but we had tough games before and we have won it.
“So, I think it’s about mentality, attitude, togetherness and belief in the process.”
The loss at City was the worst possible start to a hectic October schedule that sees United play nine fixtures across domestic and continental competitions.
Ten Hag’s side return to Premier League action at Everton on Sunday evening, but first comes Thursday’s Europa League match against Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus.
“[Playing so many games] is a good thing,” Fernandes told MUTV.
“You don’t have that much time to recover, but at the same time you have to understand that you have a chance to get a result, a good result, a good performance to give more confidence to the team.
“It’s about now going to the Europa League and winning the next game, and all the games that are coming for us.”
Meanwhile, Foden has hailed his stunning derby hat-trick as a dream come true.
While Haaland’s hat-trick was a remarkable third in successive home league games, Foden’s was the first of his senior career and took his goal tally for the club he supported as a boy past 50.
The England midfielder said: “It’s a team game and everyone has their day but I’m so happy, it is a dream come true – playing in the derby and supporting the club as well.
“To be able to score three is special for me. It’s been a long time coming. I have scored two goals a couple of times now but thankfully, I am happy to score a hat-trick now.
“I have been dreaming about scoring against Manchester United and things just fell for me in the right areas and I am really thankful that I put them away.”
Defender Manuel Akanji, who has settled well at City since his deadline day signing, felt it was a fine performance but United’s late strikes had just taken off some of the gloss.
The Switzerland international said: “It was great. We started really well and were 4-0 at half-time but in the second half we could have done better. We weren’t at 100 per cent any more.
“It’s not that easy sometimes but we can’t concede three goals in games like this where we controlled basically the game over 90 minutes. We have to do better.
“In the end the three points are what matters but hopefully in the next game we can keep the clean sheet.”