Bruno Fernandes’ unimaginable impact at Man Utd a year after signing
Manchester United completed the signing of Bruno Fernandes on January 29, 2020 and no one could have legitimately predicted the impact he would have at Old Trafford.
A year into his United career, Fernandes presented some truly ridiculous numbers and acted as a catalyst for a developing team that seemed lost and devoid of ideas before they arrived.
The best players allow their teammates around them to perform better and aside from 45 goals and assists in 52 appearances in a United shirt in just 12 months, the Portugal international has restored confidence in players like Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Fred and others.
United actually passed Fernandes in the summer of 2019, with scouts concluding that he was too loose in possession and gave the ball too often, potentially making him a handicap in the fast-paced world of English football. He was even ready to join Tottenham instead, only so that Londoners ultimately failed to agree on an acceptable price with Sporting CP.
Still, after a terrible first half of the season which saw Solskjaer’s side shoot blank against West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Watford, as well as drop points against Crystal Palace, Southampton, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Everton, it was clear United needed a lift in January.
Fernandes was still available and proved his 2018/19 season with Sporting was no fluke. He had been strong when he returned to Portugal from Italy in 2017, but in the 18 months, from the summer of 2018 until his signing with United, he scored 47 goals in midfield, a record most of which attackers would be jealous, and put 14. help.
Negotiations with Sporting have been long and drawn out, and it has been reported that Fernandes had “bid an emotional farewell” to Lisbon fans at the end of virtually every game he played in December and January.
Eventually, a deal with an initial value of £ 47million plus an additional £ 21million of add-ons was finalized two days ahead of the transfer deadline. United had their man. He chose the number 18 jersey made famous by Paul Scholes and said all the right things when he came up with how he had followed the club from his childhood because of Cristiano Ronaldo and was already well aware of the rich history and legends.
But there were still many questions that needed to be answered. The fact that United had signed anybody when they were so desperate, combined with goal and skill compilations on YouTube highlighting only his best bits, inflated the hype to insane levels before a ball was kicked.
Even if he were to be successful in the long run, it was legitimate to fear that Fernandes would take time to settle in Old Trafford, as is often the case with most new recruits – especially those arriving from there. ‘alien in a whole new. and foreign environment.
Would he be able to replicate his sports numbers at a higher level in the Premier League? There are obviously a lot of Primeira Liga success stories at England. But he certainly wouldn’t have been the first import from Portuguese football to struggle – Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Hugo Viana, Eliaquim Mangala, Islam Slimani or even United’s Victor Lindelof.
Fernandes was a latecomer who was ignored by Portugal’s “Big Three” in his youth and made the unusual decision to start his professional career in Italy with Serie B club Novara. He then moved to Udinese and Sampdoria, but he scored relatively few goals and it was only after his return to Portugal, abandoned in the top five of the European leagues, that his numbers increased.
It really wasn’t unreasonable to wonder at least if he might have a hard time, certainly at first.
Still, United hoped Fernandes would be an improvement. Considering his biggest competition was Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira, the bar wasn’t particularly high, but the level of impact he had almost immediately and continues to have 12 months was unimaginable.
Whoever now tells you that they expected to be as good as he was is to lie.
Fernandes joined a team that struggled to secure back-to-back wins and struggled to even enter the Premier League. Now they are really in the race for the Premier League title and it is more or less the only difference between the current squad and the one which started the 2019/20 season.
One of the biggest criticisms leveled at Fernandes, who was selected by 90 mins as one of the top five attacking midfielders in the world at the start of 2021 is that he’s guilty of stat stuffing with penalties. The reality is that scoring penalties is a skill few players really master and before it happened United had no set takers who regularly missed them. It doesn’t take anything away from his game that he converts on the spot, it actually adds significantly because his team wins.
Manchester United now and Manchester United who started 2020 are completely different beasts for the better… and one player is the reason.
For more than Jamie Spencer, follow it on Twitter and Facebook!