Bruno Fernandes was unable to lead his team to victory on Wednesday, after missed opportunities at Old Trafford. Manchester United currently sit level on points with both PSG and RB Leipzig with more to do before they reach the last 16. Nevertheless, the Portuguese playmaker is the main reason they are in the Champions League at all. Fernandes is proving to be a real threat, whether playing for United or his native Portugal.
The change in Manchester United since the arrival of Fernandes has been well documented. Last season he was compared to the likes of Eric Cantona in the way he hit the ground running. Gary Neville is all over him. Only recently Solskjaer said, “Bruno has that presence [like Ronaldo] and an influence and an impact on his teammates”.
Everyone is talking about Bruno because he leads with passion, grit, determination and most importantly; results. But can he handle the responsibility and expectation fans now have?
The Reds have lacked a leader for some time; Maguire looks the part in some games as captain but, when you look at successful English teams of the modern era there is always more than one leader. Chelsea had Terry, Lampard, Drogba. Liverpool: Carragher and Gerrard. Arsenal had Campbell, Viera and Henry. Manchester United: Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Neville, Van De Sar, Rooney, Ronaldo.
The case for Bruno Fernandes is that he is a leader, a big cog which gets the smaller cogs around him in motion. Let’s take a look at some numbers to see just how much of an impact the midfielder is having so far.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Below is what the Premier League table would look like if starting from the debut of Bruno Fernandes to before this weekend’s fixtures. United would be 3 points behind the leaders with two games in hand. In that time, he has managed 22 goals and 13 assists in 36 games, in all competitions, breaking the record to become the fastest midfielder to reach 20 goals in (35) United’s history. No other player in the Premier League has a better record in all competitions since February 1st.
He is also the only player to win Goal of the Month and Player of the Month in the same month (October) in Premier League history and he’s won it for November too which makes it 5 in 8 for this accolade. Manchester United have scored 16 goals this season of which Bruno has scored 7 and assisted 3, contributing to nearly two-thirds of their goals so far.
The Fernandes Effect
Much of Fernandes’ success is down to his mentality, so, in response to my earlier question – yes – he can handle the responsibility, and not only that, he welcomes it. He described it as a “dream come true” to captain his side in their 2-1 win over PSG back in October.
The team now recognises their ‘best’ player and they trust in his ability, this too is important, to allow Fernandes to carry the mantle. In October Fernandes missed his first penalty vs Newcastle, a week later he missed in the Champions League vs PSG but it was retaken because the keeper was off his line. Bruno said Fred told him to go again, Rashford too. “They believe in me,” he said in the United Podcast which gave him an “extra push”.
Trophies to Come?
Technically very sound and with a strong mentality, I reckon he will put up some seriously good numbers if he decides to stay. Will it be enough for United’s success? I think with Fernandes in the team a lot more is possible than in recent years, but there are still issues.
Pogba and the overflowing midfield, lacking a certified number 9 – at this moment maybe Cavani – and do they need another central defender in order to compete with Manchester City and Liverpool? Only time will tell, but for now Fernandes is proving to be a real match-winner for the Red Devils.