Bruno Fernandes: How one man transformed Manchester United’s fortunes
Winning the FA Cup in 2016 under Louis van Gaal and Europa League glory under Jose Mourinho in 2017 are two of the highlights of the unhurried period since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – and a far cry from the 38 trophies Scot won during his 26 years at the club.
The future doesn’t look any brighter in January. The club, now managed by former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is fifth in the rankings into the new year.
Football is poor, the atmosphere is toxic and star Paul Pogba, once seen as a saving grace, looks set to leave as soon as he can.
However, seven months have passed, and there are now signs of new life under Solskjaer, most notably since the arrival of a Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese moved to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon in January and was thrown into a team that lacked creativity, quality and leadership.
Fortunately for his new hires, it seems Fernandes has all three of those attributes in abundance.
Moreover, Fernandes has brought excitement to the red half of Manchester after years of not very good and bad performances.
His eight goals and seven assists demonstrate the type of player United have at their disposal right now.
“He [Fernandes] told me about the league, how stressful it would be to play in that league,” Porto star Danilo Pereira told CNN Sport.
“I’m not surprised to see his influence in Manchester. I think United can return to their golden years with him, Pogba and the other players.”
‘A really, really good signing’
If a typical Manchester United player existed, Fernandes would certainly be.
A thrill-seeker who loves to follow and can cope with the extreme pressure of playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world, the attacking midfielder has become an instant celebrity. ie.
He has been a leader from day one; stepped up to take (and score) six penalties in his short stint at the club – including the crucial one against Leicester City that set United on their way to next season’s Champions League.
Former players as well as pundits have appreciated his performances since his move to England, where he has won the Best Man award in most of the matches he has played. he plays.
“But what I like is that he’s smart in moving on the field. He knows when to go between lines. He knows when to go into space when he sees someone ready to make a chip. He came second line great.
“He supports the midfield when they are building and struggling a bit, and when the teams are putting a lot of pressure on them.
“He can play long, he can play short, passes less. He has the personality to take free-kicks and penalties. He’s not afraid. He doesn’t hide. I think Man United was really good choice. A really good signing.”
Adapting to the Premier League is not easy. Players often take time to get used to the physicality and fast-paced of the league, but that should not be an obstacle for Fernandes.
Although his performance in Portugal showed what was to come, such an immediate impact took many by surprise.
“But he’s a transformative player and as a revelation of how quickly he got it done, I mean it really took off from day one.
“You look at both the scoreboard and the assists, and they’re amazing. If you can maintain that form all season, that’s an incredible player.”
While his personal excellence is obvious, Fernandes’ arrival has seen the upsurge of the players around him.
Pogba, in particular, is a different player from one who seems weighed down by the pressure of being the biggest star in the starting lineup.
The Frenchman’s relationship with the club appeared to have bottomed out earlier this season, with rumors constantly linking the midfielder to a move away from the club.
Fans have also become frustrated with Pogba, who has spent most of the season on the treatment table after suffering two ankle injuries. When they see him on the pitch, he is usually overwhelmed.
But now, since his return from his most recent injury post-lockdown, there have been early signs that a partnership with Fernandes could blossom and the sudden World Cup champion looks more comfortable.
“I think Pogba likes to be surrounded by big players and big characters in their own right, I don’t think he wants to be the only big name there, and so all the pressure is on. him,” Jolly said.
“I think he probably doesn’t want to play in midfield surrounded by mediocre people. I think you see the signs of the chemistry between Pogba and Fernandes, which helps, but I think he also just appreciates that factor he’s playing with other quality players around him.”
Fernandes had been tipped to move to Old Trafford throughout 2019 and was disappointed when the deal was not completed in time for the new season.
So when the transfer hit in January for an initial $61m (£47m), fans were ready to see what all the fuss was about. It’s safe to say they did not disappoint.
“I liken it to what Eric Cantona did when he came to Manchester United from Leeds [in 1992] and we won our first Premier League title,” he said. It was the start of some real success.
“Now, I’m not saying Bruno Fernandes will lead Manchester United to the same level of success that Cantona did but he’s more than just a player that comes and makes us great.
“It’s a player that comes in and makes everyone around him better.”
It’s easy to forget that Fernandes has only been at the club for a few months but he has established himself as a fan favorite – with one particular moment, in the game against local rivals Manchester City, one of his brief periods. at the club.
Fernandes got into a side feud with Pep Guardiola, which resulted in the Portuguese putting a finger to his lips and putting the Man City manager to shame.
Goldbridge said: “I think Bruno, in a very short amount of time, has definitely come in and really got the hang of what Manchester United is like.
“In the end, there’s a thin line between embracing all that Manchester United really is and being really just someone who loves the game, wants to play the game the right way and is passionate about winning.
“I remember his little argument with Pep when we played against Man City, and the fans loved it because I thought Fernandes just wanted to win.”
Another false dawn?
While United’s form has faltered in the final two games of the season, fans will hold on to the encouraging signs of life and hope this isn’t another false dawn at the club.
A third-place finish, while not in line with the club’s true ambitions, should be seen as progress and attention can now turn to winning the Europa League, the award The match will resume on August 5.
United face a simple task in the second leg against LASK on Wednesday, leading 5-0 from the first leg and all but securing a place in the quarterfinals.
Although winning the second division of European football is nothing to laugh at, the real prize is still the Premier League.
Despite all the improvements seen at the club in recent weeks, the gap between the club and the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City remains wide – 33 points behind eventual champions Liverpool in this season.
A productive summer in the transfer market could be just what United need, and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho is just one of the names linked with a move to Old Trafford.
There have been signs of success during both Van Gaal and Mourinho’s times at the club but there is something different about United under Solskjaer.
Perhaps a return to its glory days is not too far off.
“It looks more sustainable and one of the things they’re doing is they’re not just beating teams, but if you look at that winning streak, they’ve pretty much won those games comfortably and pretty well. definitive, and, quite interesting,” Jolly said.
“I think what you can see next year is not necessarily United winning the league but being in the top four is a lot more comfortable.”
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