On the 29th January of 2020, Manchester United confirmed the signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of £47 million, with a potential £21 million in add-ons. This was a big transfer outlay for January, even in the case of a club the size of United. It was a move that was forced upon the club, as the season threatened to slip away from the team. With a lengthy five-and-a-half-year contract signed, the attacking midfielder made it quickly known in his initial interview that he had one main goal that he was striving for at United; trophies. He made his debut only days later against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and wowed the fans with a showing that displayed his eye for goal, his great tactical awareness, and his bravery in attempting dangerous passes into the final third. Over the next games, it was quickly becoming apparent just how good the Portuguese man was, and our results quickly began to improve with him in the side.
Just days before Bruno signed for the club, I went to Old Trafford to watch the team face Burnley who were visiting us. I had hoped that he would have signed by then so I could watch him myself, but it wasn’t to be. As that game wore on, it was again obvious exactly why we were in for a player of his profile. Just as with many games we had played this season, we walked out of the ground knowing we could have, and should have, performed much better against opposition considered weaker than us. We had blown the chance to go within 3 points of 4th placed Chelsea, which in hindsight would now have left us in 4th place during this break in football. Fast forward to the 1st of February and Fernandes was lining up for his debut against Wolves, just days after he had joined. In that game there were some very promising signs. He made 64 passes at an accuracy of 82.05%, with 39.74% of those passes being forwards which is very high as a proportion of total passes. He also attempted 18 passes into the final third, and 7 passes into the penalty area, showing great intent and confidence in what was only his debut. Alongside these passing numbers, he also took the most shots that game with 5 total shots with an accuracy of 60%. He also won 8 duels and made 3 ball recoveries in the opposition half. It was an all action display from the midfielder which won him his first Man of the Match award for the club. He also showed his tactical versatility, where in the first half he played as the number 10 in behind the striker, then in the second half he dropped to a right sided defensive midfielder to help regain control of the midfield.
“We feel we’ve added some X factor and quality with Bruno, he likes to task risks, which a Man United player should do.”Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the signing of Bruno Fernandes, 2020
He has been a bright spark consistently since he came into the side, whether that be his long range strike vs Everton to earn a draw, or his quick thinking and cheeky assist to Martial vs Manchester City in our win against them. On top of this, his leadership traits have been on show for everybody to see. Whether that be him screaming at Dalot to make the overlap when the young right-back was daydreaming, instructing Lingard on how to move within the oppositions midfield or his interviews where he constantly backs up the need to win every single game with 100% effort. His impact on the side cannot be understated. In the 9 games before he joined, we had won 4, drawn 1 and lost 4. Since his debut we have won 6 (including wins over Chelsea and Manchester City) and drawn 3 games, with no losses. This isn’t entirely down to Bruno of course, but he helped propel the team in this moment of good form. Possibly the most exciting aspect of all this, is he is still yet to line-up alongside Rashford and Pogba due to their injuries. The prospect of Bruno being able to play with Rashford making runs ahead of him, with Pogba sat behind him as a deep lying playmaker helping dictate the play should excite any United fan. It could be a very exciting side to watch once they are all fit.
|Progressive Runs per 90||1.92|
|Key Passes per 90||2.69|
|Duels Won per 90||6.91|
|Interceptions per 90||3.07|
|Presses per 90||20.4|
|Shots per 90||4.22|
|Passes into Penalty Box per 90||6.91|
Assuming that United were to only make the one signing this summer, Jadon Sancho, United could look to continue to setup in Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 next season. With Jadon coming in on the right wing presumably (though I imagine Sancho and Rashford would be instructed to swap flanks regularly), Bruno will continue to operate as an attacking midfielder in that 3 behind Martial. Pogba, if he stays, would sit in a pivot behind that, with license to create and cause trouble from deep alongside a more defensive midfielder. With this side, we would likely not catch up with Liverpool yet without a few more signings, in the first XI and on the bench, it would become a very creative side with a lot of youth, so only with room for improvement.
The big question that often hangs over Fernandes is simply why we didn’t try and sign him in the summer. It is often suggested that the club stated he gave the ball away too much to be a midfielder for us. However, the sluggish start to the season forced them to move their hand in January, and from what we’ve seen so far, we may have found our next star for the years to come.