Bruno Fernandes has had a hugely positive impact at Manchester United since his January arrival. The mood music at the club has changed in a matter of months. At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of criticism about the club’s recruitment and a general agreement that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wasn’t the correct man for the job. This has now changed, with the club competing on three fronts and the style of play improving with the Portuguese international at the heart of everything.
The 25-year-old has contributed five goals and three assists across all competitions, underlining the impact he is having in the final third. The fact that he scores and creates shows the skills that he does possess. Solskjaer has already given him responsibility of set pieces, including penalties. Although, he may lose those once Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba are back in the team. The consistency of his performances has been the standout since his signing. He delivers every match and that was a theme that shone through most while he was playing for Sporting.
It can take time for players to find their feet in the Premier League, due to the increased physicality, but Fernandes is producing similar underlying numbers to his time in Portugal. At the time of writing, he is averaging 3.8 shots, 2.2 key passes and 1.2 dribbles per game. Whereas, in Portugal this season, he averaged 3.5 shots, 3.7 key passes and 1.8 dribbles per game. There has been a slight drop off overall, but the sample size in England is much smaller. Despite his incredible early impact, it would be expected that Fernandes will be even more influential as he gets more games under his belt.
Manchester United’s form has been excellent since they brought Fernandes immediately into the starting eleven following his arrival. They are unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions, including victories against Manchester City and Chelsea. Before the interruption, they were being tipped to break into the top four and were frontrunners for two competitions.
United were involved in one of the final matches before competitions were postponed and they thrashed LASK 5-0. Fernandes was brought off around the hour mark as the match was one, but not before he managed to have a big impact on proceedings. The Portuguese playmaker showed his ability to control a game, with six key passes, including an assist for Odion Ighalo’s excellent opener. His passing accuracy was slightly under par at 64%, but this was due to the positivity in his approach. As a player, he isn’t afraid to lost the ball when trying to make something happen and that should be applauded.
Over the past two months, it has become clear that Fernandes needs to be a central part of Manchester United’s starting eleven for years to come. It is exciting to think of what he can become once other key players return from injury. Paul Pogba has suggested that he may now be open to extending his contract. That seemed impossible months ago, but it again underlines the impact that the Portuguese player has had. The thought of the pair playing alongside each other is mouth-watering for Manchester United supporters.
If they can make three or four more intelligent additions like Fernandes, Manchester United will remain on an upwards trajectory and that hasn’t been the case often in recent years. In the seasons to come, this may be looked back on as a era defining transfer for the club.