Kev’s back­ing for Fernandinh­o af­ter de­fen­sive switch

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By STUART BREN­NAN

KEVIN de Bruyne has called for Fernandinh­o to be given due re­spect af­ter con­vert­ing from a world-class mid­fielder to a bril­liant de­fender.

The City ace was asked to step into the back four in the sum­mer, af­ter the Blues lost skip­per Vin­cent Kom­pany.

And with Aymeric La­porte suf­fer­ing a cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in­jury in Septem­ber, the Brazil in­ter­na­tional has be­come the main man in the back four and is set to keep his place when the French­man re­turns to ac­tion in the next cou­ple of weeks.

But, while City have earned plau­dits for the way they play and the tro­phies they have won, Fernandinh­o’s name of­ten gets over­looked when their star names are listed.

Af­ter an­other stel­lar dis­play from the 34-year-old in the 3-1 Carabao Cup semi-fi­nal first leg win at United, De Bruyne put that right.

He said: “Dinho can play ev­ery­where. Since I came here he’s been re­ally un­der-rated.

“For me he was one of the best de­fen­sive mid­field­ers in the world, and now he just comes in as a cen­tral de­fender and does what he does.

“Props to him, be­cause it’s not easy to play a new po­si­tion, espe­cially when you’ve never done it in the 14 years be­fore that.”

Fernandinh­o is set to sign a one-year ex­ten­sion to his con­tract af­ter im­press­ing Guardi­ola and the City ex­ec­u­tive team with his fit­ness and per­for­mance lev­els.

And yet a knee in­jury he picked up at Old Traf­ford dur­ing the 2-0 win in April, and ag­gra­vated dur­ing the

Copa Amer­ica in sum­mer, meant his sea­son did not even start un­til the mid­dle of Septem­ber - and it looked like he might be a pe­riph­eral fig­ure, who would wind down his City ca­reer and leave next sum­mer.

That seems to be the case no longer, be­cause as De Bruyne says, he has come back strongly from that set­back and over Christ­mas he played a stag­ger­ing four games in 11 days, and com­pleted 90 min­utes in ev­ery one! “He has done bril­liantly,” said De Bruyne.

“He came back a lit­tle bit late with some phys­i­cal is­sues be­cause of the in­juries he had last year and in the sum­mer.

“But from the mo­ment he played he needed a cou­ple of games and then is on a roll. He’s some­body who, when he plays, feels good.

“He prob­a­bly feels a lit­tle bit tired now, but at the age he is, you are go­ing to take it. He is do­ing bril­liantly for us.”

Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin de Bruyne has been im­pressed with Fernandinh­o’s dis­plays

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