Soccer-United manager Ten Hag demands apology from Fulham for Fernandes video

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Nottingham Forest v Manchester United - The City Ground, Nottingham, Britain - February 28, 2024 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/ File photo

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag scolded Fulham on Thursday for a TikTok video that poked fun at his captain Bruno Fernandes, suggesting the midfielder feigned injury in their 2-1 loss to the London side at Old Trafford last weekend.

"It is not right," Ten Hag said in his press conference to preview Sunday's Manchester derby. "It is absolutely not right that a clip makes such statements. It is totally out of order and they were wrong so they should apologise for this."

Ten Hag expects Fernandes and Raphael Varane, who both played against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup fifth round win on Wednesday despite injury concerns, will be fit for the Premier League clash with reigning champions Manchester City.

"They (Fernandes and Varane) fought to be part of the game and they came out of it well so I think they will be available for Sunday as well," Ten Hag said.

The Dutchman added that he can sense his team's excitement ahead of the derby and believes they can ride some momentum from the 1-0 win at Forest that put them into the quarter-finals.

"We are also in a good run, the spirit is very good, we are united, we have togetherness," Ten Hag said. "The players are ready for it, they are looking forward to it -- I can smell it when I speak to the players. We are excited."

United face a City side in superb form, a point behind leaders Liverpool in second place. United are sixth, eight points adrift of Aston Villa for a top-four spot, but are unbeaten in five of their last six league games.

Ten Hag said Sunday's result will not define their season.

"After City, there are many more games and we know we have to catch up but the games are there for us to catch up in the right position," Ten Hag told reporters.

The manager was asked if Sunday's clash was a chance to make a statement after United's new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe pledged last week that the club would knock City "off their perch."

"I think it has nothing to do with it, but we want to win every game, that is always our mentality and approach. It doesn't matter who the opponent is but you always want to play against the best," Ten Hag said.

"Most of the time we feel that the opposition get their best outputs against Manchester United. Maybe this game is the other way around but we know we have to give everything, a team performance if you want to get the result there -- but if you do that, it is possible."

Much of Thursday's pre-game press conference focused on the much-maligned Portugal international Fernandes, who Ten Hag defended as a passionate and creative player.

"He is creating the most chances in the Premier League," the Dutchman said. "You see opponents are targeting him and especially Saturday (against Fulham) when he had the knock and they see it, then I feel that the refereeing should protect him."

(Reporting by Lori Ewing in Manchester; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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