Bruno Fernandes: Manchester United’s shot of adrenaline

Eight games into his fledgeling Manchester United career, Bruno Fernandes’ influence is already being felt at Old Trafford.

Since arriving from Sporting in the January transfer window, Bruno Fernandes has been nothing short of a revelation for Man United. A previously stodgy midfield has been given a shot of adrenaline, with the Portuguese midfielder’s passing and vision adding some much-needed guile to the energy and steel provided by the likes of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay.

The ability to create and score from midfield has been absent from United this season, with Paul Pogba battling ankle injuries and Juan Mata approaching the twilight of his career.

Even if we ignore cup games, where United have played arguably weaker opposition in Brugge and Derby County, Bruno’s contributions have been more than telling. He’s averaging two key passes and 0.3 through balls a game, second-best in the squad behind Pogba, while also mixing them up between short and long passes.

Solskjaer has allowed Bruno to play as a free-roaming attacking midfielder, with the license to drift out to the wings and drop deep as he sees fit. This role had largely been played by Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira prior to the January transfer window; in five league games, Bruno has already surpassed the pair with 5 goal involvements.

With key goalscorers like Pogba and Marcus Rashford missing from the lineup, Bruno has also taken it upon himself to help shoulder the burden. Manchester United have had severe issues in terms of a steady goal threat from midfield in the post-Ferguson era, but since arriving at the club, Bruno leads the team in shots per game, while also proving to be a threat from set-pieces.

Beyond the Stats

Bruno’s influence extends beyond the stat-sheet, impressive as they are. His willingness to attempt risky, line-breaking passes, and his willingness to make runs to give his teammates the opportunity to pick out similar passes have given United a sharper edge while in possession, something that was sorely needed early in the season when the team relied almost solely on the counter-attack.

As mentioned earlier, his consistent set-piece delivery from both crossing and shooting positions is a big upgrade on the wayward accuracy provided by a myriad of dead-ball specialists in the first half of the season, exemplified by his wonderful cross for Harry Maguire’s goal against Chelsea.

Bruno can also be seen marshalling United’s players while in possession, instructing teammates to run off the ball and into positions where he can find them by switching play. He has taken the pressure of creating off the likes of Anthony Martial, who can instead concentrate on getting into scoring positions.

A captain at Sporting, Bruno’s leadership qualities are beginning to shine through on the pitch, and the only real question hanging over him at this point is why United waited so long to sign him, given that he was available last summer. One could argue that had they managed to sign the Portuguese international before the season, United would surely be comfortably in a Champions League slot right now, instead of mired in a dogfight for fourth.

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Bruno Fernandes once again showed his quality against strong opposition, putting in an excellent performance against Manchester City in the derby on Sunday, which was highlighted by an exquisite, cheeky free-kick which led directly to Anthony Martial’s opening goal.