How Bruno Fernandes transformed Manchester United’s fortunes | CNN

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CNN  — 

Manchester United has not had much to celebrate in recent years.

The triumph experienced during the reign of renowned coach Alex Ferguson seems like a far-off recollection for fans around the world who have witnessed their once esteemed team make a series of poor choices.

An FA Cup win in 2016 under Louis van Gaal and Europa League glory under Jose Mourinho in 2017 were two of the highlights in what’s been an uninspiring period since Ferguson retired in 2013 – and a far cry from the 38 trophies won by Scot in his 26 years at the club.

In January, the future did not seem promising. The team, currently under the leadership of former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was ranked fifth in the league by the start of the New Year.

The soccer game was not up to par, the environment was negative, and key player Paul Pogba, previously thought to be the team’s savior, seemed ready to depart at the earliest opportunity.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool FC at American Express Community Stadium on July 08, 2020 in Brighton, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Paul Childs/Pool via Getty Images)

I observed Mohamed Salah from Liverpool showing a response during the Premier League game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool FC at American Express Community Stadium on July 08, 2020 in Brighton, England. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Government regulations on social distancing, football stadiums in Europe remain without fans and all matches are being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Paul Childs/Pool via Getty Images) Pool/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images I gained insights from watching 92 consecutive Premier League football games.

However, after seven months have passed, there are indications of progress under Solskjaer, particularly with the addition of Bruno Fernandes.

The midfielder from Portugal arrived at Old Trafford in January from Sporting Lisbon and was immediately placed into a team that lacked innovation, skill, and guidance.

Thankfully, Fernandes possesses an abundance of all three of these qualities for his new employees.

United has been undefeated in the league since the beginning of the year and has climbed up the rankings to secure a third place finish. This accomplishment also secures their spot in next season’s UEFA Champion League, which they have not qualified for since the 2018-19 season. This is quite impressive, especially considering the club’s poor start to the season, which was their worst in 33 years.

Furthermore, Fernandes revitalized the energy in Manchester’s red half following a string of lackluster and disappointing performances.

The player United currently has has shown their skills with eight goals and seven assists in the league.

According to CNN Sport, Porto’s Danilo Pereira shared with me the intensity of playing in the league as described by Fernandes.

“It comes as no shock to witness the significant influence he has had in Manchester. I believe with him, Pogba, and other players, United can revive their golden era.”

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Bruno Fernandes had an instant impact on Manchester United.

“A highly commendable acquisition”

If there is a characteristic Manchester United player, Fernandes would most likely embody it.

This midfielder is a thrill-seeker who is entertaining to watch and can handle the intense demands of playing for one of the top clubs in the world. They have quickly become a fan favorite.

Since the beginning, he has been a guiding force, willingly taking on the responsibility of scoring six penalties in his time at the club. This included a crucial penalty against Leicester City that contributed to United securing a spot in the Champions League for next season.

Both former players and sports commentators have praised his performances since he relocated to England. He has received the Man of the Match title in nearly every game he has participated in.

Cesc Fabregas, a former Premier League player and current Monaco player, stated to CNN Sport that the individual possesses great talent and displays fearlessness on the field. He also noted that the player has a strong desire for the ball, something commonly seen in top athletes.

“I appreciate his intelligence in navigating the field. He has a good sense of when to position himself between defenders and when to make runs into open spaces. He executes well when presented with the opportunity for a through pass. His ability to penetrate the second line is exceptional.”

When the midfield is trying to build up and facing challenges, he provides support. He also helps out when the opposing team is putting a lot of pressure on them.

“He possesses the ability to excel in both long and short passes. He also has the confidence to take on free-kicks and penalties without hesitation. He is not afraid to step up and does not shy away from the spotlight. In my opinion, Manchester United has made an excellent decision and a valuable addition to their team.”

“The Manchester United enthusiast who will be launching a museum in Finland with a collection of 33,000 items.”

The playmaker helped fire the club into next season's UEFA Champions League.

Instant impact

Adjusting to the Premier League is not an easy task. It typically requires players to acclimate to the league’s physical demands and fast-paced style, but this has not been a challenge for Fernandes.

Even though his performances in Portugal hinted at what was to come, his immediate impact surprised many.

According to British journalist Richard Jolly, when observing the player at Sporting Lisbon, it was evident that they were a prolific scorer and playmaker. However, there is always the question of whether they can replicate that success in a higher league and with a new team. Jolly also stated that he does not see a feasible scenario in which Manchester United can secure a spot in the top four without Bruno Fernandes.

However, he has proven to be a game-changer and a pleasant surprise in terms of the speed at which he achieved it. It was truly evident from the very beginning.

“If we observe both the number of goals and assists, they are exceptional. If this performance can be sustained throughout the entire season, it is a remarkable player.”

Pogba improvement

Although his individual talent is clear, the addition of Fernandes has resulted in an increase in the performance of the players around him.

After the resumption of football following the lockdown, the offensive trio consisting of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, and Marcus Rashford showed great scoring ability, with the team scoring a total of 22 goals in their last nine league games. Additionally, players such as Pogba and Nemanja Matic have appeared more comfortable and confident in the midfield.

Pogba, specifically, is now a transformed player who seems to have shed the burden of being the top star in the starting lineup.

The French player’s connection with the team seemed to hit a low point earlier this season, as there were ongoing speculations about the midfielder potentially leaving the club.

Fans were also disappointed with Pogba as he spent a significant amount of the season on the sidelines due to two ankle injuries. And when he did make an appearance on the field, he failed to impress.

Since his return from his recent injury following the lockdown, there have been indications that a collaboration with Fernandes could thrive and the World Cup champion appears to be more at ease.

Jolly believes that Pogba prefers to have other prominent and strong personalities around him, rather than being the sole center of attention and carrying all the pressure.

I believe he may not want to play in a midfield with average players. However, there seems to be some chemistry between Pogba and Fernandes, which is beneficial. Additionally, he values the fact that he is surrounded by high-quality players.

Paul Pogba has vastly improved since Fernandes joined.

The new Cantona?

Throughout 2019, there were rumors connecting Fernandes to a transfer to Old Trafford. Many were disappointed when the deal did not go through before the start of the new season.

In January, when the initial transfer fee of $61 million (£47m) was confirmed, fans eagerly anticipated seeing what the excitement was all about. It can be confidently stated that they have not been let down.

Mark Goldbridge, a fan of Manchester United and host of the fan channel The United Stand, is eagerly anticipating the team’s development.

“He drew inspiration from Eric Cantona’s move to Manchester United from Leeds in 1992, which resulted in their first Premier League title. It served as a catalyst for their future success.”

“Now, I’m not saying Bruno Fernandes is going to lead Manchester United to the same level of success that Cantona did but he’s not just one player coming in and making us great.

One individual has joined and elevated the performance of those around them.

It can be overlooked that Fernandes has only been with the team for a few months, but he has already solidified himself as a beloved player among the fans. One moment, in a match against local rivals Manchester City, stands out as a defining moment of his brief tenure at the club.

Fernandes became embroiled in a quarrel with Pep Guardiola, leading the Portuguese player to place his finger over his mouth and silence the City manager.

Goldbridge commented that Bruno has quickly understood the essence of Manchester United.

In the end, there is a fine distinction between truly understanding the essence of Manchester United and simply being a fan of the sport, driven to play with integrity and determination to succeed.

“I have a clear recollection of the heated exchange between him and Pep during our match against Manchester City. The fans were thrilled by it because I believe Fernandes is driven by a strong desire to win.”

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Fernandes has provided United's front three with more chances.

Another false dawn?

Although United’s performance declined in the last two games of the season, supporters remain optimistic and are hoping that this is not just another false hope for the club.

While the club’s ultimate goal may not have been achieved, the third-place ranking is still a step forward. The focus can now shift to securing victory in the Europa League, which is scheduled to resume on August 5th.

There is a straightforward challenge ahead for United as they face LASK again on Wednesday for the second leg. They are currently leading 5-0 from the first leg, making it highly likely that they will secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

While achieving victory in the secondary cup competition of European football is impressive, the ultimate prize remains the Premier League.

Although the club has shown some improvements in recent weeks, there is still a significant gap between them and top teams like Liverpool and Manchester City. In fact, they finished 33 points behind eventual champions Liverpool this season.

A successful summer in the transfer market may be exactly what United requires, and one of the potential names being discussed for a move to Old Trafford is Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

There were indications of achievement under both Van Gaal and Mourinho’s leadership at the team, but there is an indescribable difference in United’s performance under Solskjaer.

Perhaps a resurgence of its former glory is not too distant.

Jolly stated that their recent success appears to be more long-lasting, and one of the contributing factors is not simply defeating their opponents, but doing so in a dominant and entertaining fashion.

“I anticipate that next year, United may not necessarily win the league, but they will likely secure a spot in the top four with greater ease.”


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