Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes feels he owes manager Erik ten Hag for standing by him after a 7-0 humiliation at Liverpool in March.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said after the match that the Portugal international should not captain United again.
Ten Hag rejected the demands and called the 28-year-old “an inspiration”.
He is set to lead United out for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley with club captain Harry Maguire likely to be on the bench.
“I’m aware that he’s really happy with the way I train, the way I play, the way I show my emotions and the way I show my passion for the game,” said Fernandes.
“He knows I care. That’s why probably sometimes it makes you do some things that you should not do.
“But I will never do anything to make the team look bad, make my team-mates look bad, or something that is not good for the team. He knows that, so that’s why it protects me.
“I think that’s good because he shows you the respect, he shows you the protection, but always with the demands behind that because obviously when you protect someone you want them to give you some back, so he can have his reasons to protect you.”
Fernandes had a testing day at Anfield; with once incident late in the match where he appeared to make contact with an assistant referee, although he was not charged.
Ten Hag has supported the midfielder, but does not give him a free pass.
In a throwback to Sir Alex Ferguson’s days, there have been occasions when Ten Hag has demanded to see the 28-year-old to express his displeasure – but the manager maintains trust by not disclosing the details of those discussions.
Fernandes said: “He has called me to his office two or three times and said ‘look, we have to change this, we have to change this, I think you could do it in a different way’. We had many conversations this season.”
Fernandes wanted contract assurances
The midfielder feels United are heading in the right direction under Ten Hag – having wanted reassurance regarding the club’s plans before signing a four-year contract in 2022.
“I am ambitious. I want to win trophies at the club,” said Fernandes, a £47m buy from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.
“I spoke with the club before I signed that contract and said I want to be successful with the club but I need to make sure the club is going to do the right things and do things in a successful way.
“I think those steps are being done. We still need some things and I think we will have that – not only with transfers but also in the dressing room, with us stepping up more in moments that we needed [to do it] this season but didn’t.
“Next season we will have learned, so we need to do it better.”
Positive, rather than successful season
Fernandes refuses to call this season “successful” for Manchester United. The word he prefers to use is “positive”.
A successful season, he argues, would involve “winning the league, winning the Champions League, winning big trophies because the past of this club, the history of this club, is big”.
He won his first trophy as a United player, the Carabao Cup, in February, with the team securing a place in next season’s Champions League.
United have never won both domestic cups in the same season, so some kind of history awaits if they are successful at Wembley.
However, Fernandes knows most of his club’s supporters have a different reason for wanting their team to beat City – stopping them matching United’s 1999 Treble-winning campaign.
As players, Fernandes does not believe the United squad can think about the game in the same way.
“We are aware of it,” he said. “We know it. We know the story of our club and that the fans don’t want City to do it.
“But for us it is about ending the season in the best way possible.
“We know if we win the trophy, the consequence of that is Manchester City cannot do the Treble any more. But from the players’ side, it is just about winning the game because we want to win a trophy for ourselves, the club, the fans. That is it.”