Bruno Fernandes: How one man transformed Manchester United’s fortunes
There hasn’t been much to shout about at Manchester United over the past few years.
Enjoyed success under great managers Alex Ferguson Feels like a distant memory for a global fan base that has seen its once great club lurch from one bad decision to another.
An FA Cup triumph under Louis van Gaal in 2016 and Europa League glory under Jose Mourinho in 2017 were the highlights of what has been an inspiring period since Ferguson retired in 2013 – and the Scot’s 26 A far cry from the 38 trophies won. Years in the club.
The future didn’t look too bright in January. The club, now managed by former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, found themselves fifth in the league table by the new year.
The football was bad, the atmosphere toxic and star man Paul Pogba, once seen as a saving grace, seemed ready to leave as soon as possible.
But, fast forward seven months, and now there are signs of new life under Solskjaer, especially since the arrival of a Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese playmaker arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon in January and was thrown into a squad that lacked creativity, quality and leadership.
Fortunately for his new employees, it seems that Fernandes has all three qualities in abundance.
Since their debut at the start of the year, United have not lost a single game in the league, rising up the table to finish third for the first time since the 2018–19 season and qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League. was It was a remarkable feat as the club began the campaign with their worst start to a league season in 33 years.
What’s more, Fernandes brought excitement to Manchester’s red half after years of lackluster, and often miserable, performances.
His eight league goals and seven assists show what kind of player United now have on their hands.
“Uh [Fernandes] told me about the league, how intense it is to play in that league,” Porto star Danilo Pereira told CNN Sport.
“It’s no surprise to me to see his impact in Manchester. I think United can return to their golden years with him and Pogba and other players. ”
If there is such a thing as a typical Manchester United player, Fernandes would certainly be it.
A risk-taker, exciting to watch and able to cope with the immense pressure of playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world, the attacking midfielder became an instant hit.
He has been a leader since day one; Stepping up to take (and score) six penalties during his short spell at the club – including the crucial spot-kick against Leicester City that helped United move into Champions League football the following season.
Former players and pundits alike have praised his performances since his move to England, where he has won the Man of the Match award in almost every game he has played.
“You can see he has talent and he’s not scared. He wants the ball, which I would expect from a very good player,” former Premier League star and current Monaco player Cesc Fabregas told CNN Sport.
“But what I like is that he is intelligent in terms of moving around the pitch. He knows when to get between the lines. He knows when to go into space when he sees someone available to make a chip. He gets to the second line in style.
“He supports the midfield when they are building and struggling a bit, and when teams are putting a lot of pressure on them.
“He can play long, he can play short, short passes. He has the personality to take free-kicks and penalties. He is not afraid. He does not hide. I think Man United have made a really good choice. A very good signature. “…
Adapting to the Premier League is no simple feat. It usually takes time for players to get used to the physicality and fast-paced nature of the league, but that hasn’t been a deterrent for Fernandez.
Although his performance in Portugal gave a hint of what was to come, such an immediate impact surprised many.
“You look at the Sporting Lisbon player and obviously he was someone who scored a lot of goals and someone who scored a lot of goals, but there’s always the challenge of whether he can make it to a better league and a May translate to new club. British journalist Richard Jolly said CNN Sport, He added that he saw no realistic way for United to finish in the top four without Fernandes.
“But he’s been a transitional player and it’s been a revelation in terms of how quickly he’s done it, I mean it was from day one really.
“You look at both the goal tally and the assist tally, and they’re fantastic. If you can maintain this form throughout the season, he’s a fantastic player right there.
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While his individual talent is evident, Fernandes’ arrival has seen the growth of the players around him.
The attacking trio of Anthony Marshall, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford Football has scored at will since returning from lockdown (the team have scored 22 goals in their last nine league games), and the likes of Pogba and Nemanja Matic are looking more settled in midfield.
Pogba, in particular, is a different player from him who was overwhelmed by the pressure of being the biggest star in the starting lineup.
The Frenchman’s relationship with the club hit rock bottom earlier this season, with persistent rumors linking the midfielder with a move away from the club.
Fans were also disappointed with Pogba for spending most of the season on the treatment table after two ankle injuries. When they caught a glimpse of him on the field, they were often disappointed.
But now, since he has returned from his latest injury since the lockout, there have been early signs that the partnership with Fernandes could be growing and the World Cup winner suddenly looks more comfortable.
“I think Pogba himself likes to be surrounded by big players and big characters, I don’t think he wants to be just a big name out there, and that takes all the pressure off him,” Jolly said. ,” Jolly said.
“I think he probably doesn’t want to be in midfield where he’s surrounded by mediocrity. I think you’ve already seen signs of a bit of chemistry between Pogba and Fernandes which helps, but I think he also appreciates the element that he’s playing with other quality players around him. ”
Fernandes was linked with a move to Old Trafford during 2019 and was disappointed the deal was not completed in time for the new season.
So, when the transfer crossed the line for an initial $61 million (£47m) in January, fans were ready to see what all the fuss was about. It’s safe to say they haven’t disappointed.
“I compare it to Eric Cantona when he came to Manchester United from Leeds [in 1992] And we won our first Premier League title,” he said. “It was a kick-start to some real success.
“Now, I’m not saying Bruno Fernandes is going to take Manchester United to the same level of success that Cantona did but he’s not just a player and makes us great.
“This is a player who has come in and made everyone around him better.”
It’s easy to forget that Fernandes has only been at the club for a few months but he has already established himself as a firm fan favorite – with one particular moment, in a game against local rivals Manchester City, that he has a definition in the short term. the club
Fernandes became involved in a sideline altercation with Pep Guardiola, resulting in the Portuguese putting his finger to his lips and shutting down the City manager.
“I think Bruno, in a very short period of time, has definitely come in and really understood what Manchester United is,” Goldbridge said.
“Ultimately, there’s a fine line between understanding what Manchester United is and really just being 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 Man City, and the fans loved it because I think Fernandez just wants to win.”
While United’s form has dipped for the final two games of the season, fans will hold on to those encouraging signs of life and hope it’s not another false dawn at the club.
A third-place finish, although not in line with the club’s original ambition, should be seen as progress and attention can now turn to winning the Europa League, which is due to resume on August 5.
United faced a simple task in Wednesday’s second-round clash against LASK, going 5-0 up from the first leg and guaranteeing a place in the quarter-finals.
While winning European football’s secondary club cup competition is no laughing matter, the real prize is still the Premier League.
Despite all the improvements seen at the club in recent weeks, the gulf between it and the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City remains wide – it has finished 33 points behind eventual champions Liverpool this season.
A productive summer in the transfer market could be just what United need, and Borussia Dortmund’s Jaden Sancho is among the names linked with a switch to Old Trafford.
There were signs of success during Van Gaal and Mourinho’s time at the club but something feels different about United under Solskjaer.
A return to its glory days may not be far off.
“It looks more sustainable and one thing they’re doing is they’re not just beating teams, but, if you look at that winning run, they’ve won a lot of games comfortably and pretty strongly. “Won in style, and quite entertaining,” Jolly said.
“I think what you can see next year is United not necessarily winning the league but getting into the top four very comfortably.”