It was one of the longest and most protracted ‘will he or won’t he?’ stories of the January transfer window. The usual clichés got trotted out about the two parties being ‘too far apart’ in their contract negotiations, which is usually football-speak for the player or his agent wants more money. But eventually, Manchester United got the signing of Bruno Fernandes over the line for a cool £47 million, although based on performances that could increase to as much as £67 million.
The feverish nature with which United fans awaited updates on the transfer confirms the dire straits they are in at the moment, and the dogged nature that Ed Woodward pursued the 25-year-old suggests that United feel they have landed a bargain too.
Fernandes will move to Manchester from Sporting Lisbon, a well-trodden path that Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Marcos Rojo have made in recent times. The midfielder admitted that his love for Manchester United was born out of watching Ronaldo in the red shirt as a youngster, and if he can emulate even a fraction of what his countryman achieved at Old Trafford then he will be considered an excellent investment.
But does Fernandes have the game to give United the boost they so desperately need?
Portuguese Man of War
If Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer was in the market for a goal-scoring midfielder, then he might just have landed one in Bruno Fernandes. It’s interesting that the player has picked 18 as his United squad number – the same digits that adorned the back of Paul Scholes for much of his Red Devils career.
Similarities will be drawn between the two players for more reasons than a simple shirt number. Fernandes is a fairly prolific scorer from midfield areas, and he already has 13 goals in just 22 starts for Sporting this term.
Eight of those came in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, which clearly is a standard below the English Premier League and thus little can be drawn from that. But he has also scored five in five in the Europa League in a group that included PSV Eindhoven, Rosenborg and surprise package LASK Linsk.
As such, we don’t know if the 25-year-old has the game to step up to elite-level just yet, although it should be noted that he has become an integral part of the Portugal side that will attempt to defend their European Championship crown this summer.
The bookmakers’ latest Euro 2020 international football betting odds suggest that might be a tough task – they’ve been drawn in a group alongside France and Germany, after all – but the fact that Fernandes is a regular starter for the Portuguese national side confirms he is a classy operator.
His stats confirm what Solskjaer was hoping for: Fernandes is a metronomic passer of the football with an eye for that killer delivery – he’s served up an average of 3.10 key passes per 90 minutes this season, which is certainly an elite-level performance. And it seems as though there is some beast to go with the beauty: the midfield man has been booked seven times in 2019/20 already, which suggests he isn’t afraid of putting his foot in where it hurts too.
A goal-scoring, chance creating advanced midfielder who isn’t afraid of indulging in the dark arts.
Whether that is what United need to turn their season around remains to be seen, but you suspect in the coming months and years Fernandes will prove why Woodward was just so eager to get him to Old Trafford.