Bruno Fernandes has hailed Fred for ‘fighting’ with Brighton players to ensure his team-mate could keep his cool and stroke home Manchester United’s winning penalty.
In a dramatic end to a pulsating Premier League clash at the Amex, Fernandes held his nerve to fire home from the spot 10 minutes into added time, securing a 3-2 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
The penalty was awarded for Neal Maupay’s handball from a corner as United surged forward in search of a last-gasp winner, after Solly March had headed in an equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time.
Fernandes said he had to have “balls” to find the net and earn the Red Devils’ first league points of the season.
But he also credited the role played by Fred, revealing he had been able to keep his focus because the Brazilian midfielder had kept protesting Brighton players away from him.
“As everyone starts shouting, discussion and VAR and everything, I try keep away, take the ball and try and keep the focus,” said Fernandes in quotes reported by the Manchester Evening News.
“I saw the keeper taking his bottles and everyone, the towel came out, so I was just taking the ball, waiting, ‘focus on what you have to do’.
“Of course, sometimes we say you have to have balls to take a penalty like this.
“I know everyone trusts in me, everyone expects me to score, and it was a big part of the game like I said.
“Penalties are key in some games and today was key. Doesn’t matter if I score, or if someone else scores – what matters is the three points we’re taking home.
“After we had the penalty, everyone was fighting for everything: ‘penalty, no penalty’. We kept the focus until the end. I felt the trust of everyone behind me.
“I see Fred fighting with everyone who was coming to take out my focus, taking away the players from Brighton.”
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Brighton had taken the lead through a Maupay penalty five minutes before half-time, but United equalised just two minutes later through a Lewis Dunk own goal.
Solskjaer’s side were outplayed for much of the game by their hosts, who hit the woodwork five times.
But Marcus Rashford’s superb solo effort gave United a second-half lead, while March appeared to have secured what would have been a deserved draw for Brighton, before Fernandes’ late winner.