By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Bruno Fernandes says this will be a positive campaign rather a successful one for Manchester United even if they win the FA Cup.
Erik ten Hag took over a side in disarray last summer after the disjointed Red Devils stumbled home sixth under interim Ralf Rangnick.
The Dutchman quickly improved the quality and mindset at United, who lifted February’s Carabao Cup and overcame some bumps in the road to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Thursday’s 4-1 win against Chelsea secured a top-four finish with a game to spare and this season could get even better if the beat Manchester City at Wembley on June 3.
Asked if this season counts as a success already or whether it depends on winning the FA Cup, skipper Fernandes said: “No, no.
“It’s a positive season, not successful because successful is different for this club and for us players it has to be too.
“We did win a trophy. We get into the top four. Now we have another final but whatever happened in that final will not change anything about the season we have done.
“One game can’t define a season that has been long with so many games and we’ve been doing really well and we had our moments that we could have done better, obviously, because if not we would be in a better position than we are actually.
“But still we went to win the Carabao, we’re in the final of FA Cup, in Europa League could have been better, but it is what it is.
“Now, we have the chance to finish in the best way at home against Fulham and after we have time to think about City.”
Ten Hag said after beating Chelsea that this had been a “successful season” for United, but he is unlikely to be annoyed by Fernandes’ comments to the contrary.
After all, the 28-year-old is driving standards on and off the field as the 20-time champions look to launch a first sustained title bid since last winning the Premier League a decade ago.
Cool as you like 🤌#MUFC || #MUNCHE pic.twitter.com/jEGb1HVRI4
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 25, 2023
“(Champions League qualification) is not a relief,” Fernandes said. “I think everyone was aware that it was really important for us to get the top four.
“I think at the same time everyone was really convinced that we will do it.
“We should have done it a little bit early in the season but obviously we had those two away games that we didn’t get any points and it complicated our counts.
“But we get it today and that’s the most important. We get into the top four.
“After we couldn’t fight anymore for the league title we had to fight for our top four and we did it today.
“We are really happy to be in the Champions League next season. But obviously, it’s kind of an obligation for this club to be in these positions.”
Fernandes scored along with Casemiro, Anthony Martial, Fernandes as they saw off wasteful Chelsea 4-1 to put them third in the standings heading into the Premier League finale.
That result extended their unbeaten run at Old Trafford to 29 matches in all competitions and means victory against Fulham can see them equal the club record of 27 home wins in a season.
“I think everyone has seen that (bond with the fans) has been really important for us, not just this season,” Fernandes said about United’s home form.
“I think last season when we struggled, the fans have been always there to support us.
“So, we can’t be now saying that this season they’re there. Obviously, you feel a little bit more belief on their side, you feel more the connection, but they’ve always been there, they’ve been there.
“Since I arrived at the club I think they’ve been always supporting us and obviously when you get results, it’s always better. When you don’t, people are upset and we understand that.”
While United look to end the season on a high, Chelsea just want the campaign to end.
Already assured of finishing in the bottom half after an embarrassing season, interim boss Frank Lampard’s side were second best at Old Trafford.
Young midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka said ahead of the season finale at home to Newcastle: “We’re in a difficult period.
“There’s been a lot of transition and change but it’s clear we aren’t playing well enough at the moment. We need to give a lot more for the badge.”