Before the signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon in January, Manchester United lacked such a world-class and technically gifted midfielder, especially since the departures of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick.
Every transfer window since 2014, Manchester United tried to sign quality midfielders, but the moves didn’t pay many dividends.
There was always a dearth of goals and assists from midfield, with the Red Devils relying heavily on the strikers, who more or less consistently delivered.
As a result, Manchester United often struggled to break open defensive-minded teams in recent years.
But since Fernandes’ arrival, United’s midfield is looking like a well-oiled machine, capable of unlocking the meanest of defences.
Such has been the Portuguese international’s impact at Old Trafford.
In his first 13 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United, the 25-year-old has scored six goals and provided four assists. Impressive numbers indeed.
So, how exactly has Bruno Fernandes managed to transform a lacklustre Manchester United team? Read on to find out.
Every player who joins a new club brings either a positive or a negative change in the squad.
Manchester United wanted to sign Bruno Fernandes last summer, but could not strike a deal with Sporting Lisbon, with the Red Devils keeping tabs on the player since 2017.
In the Primeira Liga, he was raw and rough around the edges but had huge potential.
One of the most prominent European football experts, Andy Brassell, while talking about Bruno Fernandes said:
“When he joined Novara in 2013, they were already relegated so he got many more games and got integrated in the team quickly and became un-droppable and pumped up.”
Fernandes knew football is a team game and if the team benefits, he benefits.
He kept on improving his game and also lifted his team-mates’ performance levels. The Portuguese international has displayed a strong character at every professional club he has played for.
The scouting reports of the clubs chasing him described Bruno Fernandes as a quick learner, non-stop runner and a constant motivator – qualities which are missing in many young players at elite clubs.
In one of the press conferences in March 2019, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explicitly provided an insight into how he wants his team to work and insisted that the squad can strive for more in order to climb the league table.
“I love to work with teams that play forward, run forward, chase the ball and work harder than the opposition. Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Becks [David Beckham], the graveyard shift that they did up and down the line. They didn’t just stand out wide, get the ball and deliver – they worked their socks off.”
Manchester United have at last found a creator, a playmaker and a relentless runner in their midfield. It is not surprising that since his arrival, Fernandes has started every game and has performed admirably well.
It’s rare to see a January signing make such an instant impact, especially at a club of Manchester United’s stature.
He has taken the bull by the horns and is never shy of taking on any challenge – an attitude which was missing from the current crop of Manchester United players.
The 25-year-old’s desire to challenge for every ball and his hunger to score more goals have rubbed off on his teammates. There is spring in their steps now, and Manchester United look like a team with a purpose and a goal to achieve.
Many, including pundits and football experts, have been in constant awe of Bruno Fernandes’ performances for Manchester United, and the numbers show why.
Bruno Fernandes has indeed taken the Premier League by storm. Before his arrival, Manchester United were creating 4-5 goalscoring opportunities per game on an average.
But with the Portuguese in the team, the Red Devils are a constant threat and are regularly creating 12-15 goalscoring opportunities.
Manchester United have also improved considerably in keeping and retaining possession for longer durations of the game.
Fernandes has a knack of dropping deep to dictate play and to make those last-ditch runs from the midfield to overcrowd the opposition penalty area.
He has become the link between the defence and the attack, something which was sorely missing since Paul Pogba’s injury troubles.
On the other hand, there are stats which show another side to his game.
The playmaker has been guilty of losing possession and poor shot selection at times.
Other renowned playmakers in different football leagues around the world also lose possession, which are calculated as interceptions made by the opposition. These passes when successful, lead to assists or goalscoring chances.
So, these stats actually do not tell us the true and complete story.
Attack! Attack! Attack!
Attacking is in the DNA of Manchester United teams since eternity. Even if they are three goals up, the fans in the stadium will keep on pushing the players to attack more.
As a result, Old Trafford was once considered a fortress, where the opposition would get hardly 25-30% ball possession at times.
Post-Sir Alex Ferguson, the supporters craved for such attacking displays, but they were few and far between.
But with Bruno Fernandes constantly probing the opposition defences, David De Gea has fewer shots to save and in turn, Manchester United concede less.
Since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United have only faced 32 shots on goal, conceding four times in all competitions.
On the other hand, they have had 86 shots on target, scoring 31 goals across all competitions during this time period. Out of these, Bruno has been a part of 10 of them, directly.
Bright future ahead…..
Manchester United still have to show consistency over larger periods of games and avoid dropping points against lower-ranked teams in the Premier League to even challenge for a top-four spot.
But nevertheless, with a strong axis of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, it is a great platform to build on for the future and start taking the cup competitions seriously to inculcate a winning habit going forward.