The tide had already swept past Manchester United. They were 7-0 down, staring down the barrel of their heaviest Premier League defeat and being taunted by the Anfield crowd. 18-year-old substitute Stefan Bajcetic took the ball and skipped past captain for the day Bruno Fernandes, to the delight of the Merseysiders watching on.
But instead of chasing back, making a challenge and hunting down the ball, Fernandes just stopped and shrugged his shoulders. As the captain of Manchester United, losing 7-0 to Liverpool is about as bad as things get. Fernandes' attitude, which has been questioned in the past, absolutely stank.
It was one of the most disgraceful performances from a Manchester United captain we have ever seen - and it has nothing to do with what he did on the ball. He dived to try to win a penalty from Alisson, feigned a face injury when Ibrahima Konate caught him in the chest and, worst of all, shoved the assistant referee. Somehow he avoided a caution.
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He’d probably wished he was sent off. He was practically begging Erik ten Hag to take him off as the game reached its conclusion. He’s not a Manchester United captain in any sense of the word. He’s left over from an era when he was the club’s best player, and was given the armband based on that fact.
But he’s no longer the best player at the club. And with Raphael Varane and Casemiro at the club, he certainly isn’t the best leader. He has the ego of a player that has won five Champions League titles and five Premier Leagues. Not one Carabao Cup and no league titles.
"The second half has been an absolute disgrace," Gary Neville said after the game on Sky Sports. "It was a shambles, epitomised by captain Bruno Fernandes, who has been embarrassing at times. They've not understood the dangers of this fixture. The Manchester United players have been eaten alive out there."
Say what you like about Harry Maguire’s performances in recent years, and United fans certainly have - but at least he acts like a Manchester United captain. He has fronted up to several damaging defeats, done interviews after each game and, importantly, has never ever thrown in the towel. Looking back, the likes of Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce understood what it took to be captain of this great club. Bruno Fernandes clearly doesn’t.
Ten Hag has had to make some huge decisions during his time at Old Trafford so far. Getting rid of Cristiano Ronaldo was the right call, he has dealt with Maguire well and led United to their first trophy in six years. But his next big decision should be making sure Fernandes never wears that armband ever again. With his performance at Anfield, he has lost that privilege.
It’s easy to take responsibility when things are going well and Fernandes has certainly played an important part in United’s renaissance this season, but a true character is revealed when the backs are up against the wall. The Portuguese midfielder cannot be blamed for all these defeats, but it also isn’t a coincidence that he has been part of Man United teams that have lost 6-1 to Tottenham Hotspur, 5-0 to Liverpool, 4-0 to Brentford, 6-3 to Manchester City and now 7-0 to Liverpool.
United have conceded 21 goals in their last five league matches against Liverpool and haven’t beaten the Reds at Anfield since January 2016. But this was far worse than just another defeat to their fiercest rivals. This was another humiliation for the history books, the likes of which will never be forgotten in the north west.
And the buck stops on the pitch with the captain. It's an honour Bruno Fernandes should never receive again.
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