First yr paying off large for Solskjaer, drawing Cantona comparisons


It was after Bruno Fernandes‘ third recreation for Manchester United that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew he had made the proper resolution in bringing the midfielder to Outdated Trafford.

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Whereas the remainder of the squad had been largely glad with a 1-1 draw towards Membership Brugge within the last-32 of the 2019-20 Europa League understanding there was one other leg to return, Fernandes was not. It was the kind of response Solskjaer had seen earlier than within the United groups he performed in, and the Norwegian was quietly happy to see his new signing from Sporting CP throw his shirt down within the nook of the dressing room.

Solskjaer can be of the opinion that pulls, even ones that may be rectified every week later, are by no means adequate. After solely enjoying the ultimate 9 minutes in Belgium, Fernandes requested Solskjaer to start out the return leg in Manchester. He scored, and United received 5-0.

As he approaches his first anniversary on the membership, it stays one in all solely 4 instances Fernandes has performed at Outdated Trafford in entrance of followers. Since making his debut on Feb. 1, 2020, the Portugal worldwide has been one in all United’s most transformative signings. He has been so influential to even draw comparisons with Eric Cantona, whose arrival in November 1992 triggered a run of 4 top-flight titles in 5 seasons after a 26-year run with out one.

Fernandes nonetheless has a protracted technique to go to match Cantona’s trophy haul, but it surely’s price noting that United completed second the season earlier than the Frenchman was signed. When Fernandes pulled on a United shirt for the primary time, they had been fifth within the desk, 36 factors behind leaders Liverpool. A yr on, they’re one level off the highest.

His numbers communicate for themselves. By profitable the Premier League’s participant of the month award for December, he grew to become the primary participant to gather the trophy 4 instances in a calendar yr, having additionally received it in February, June and November.

Given his broad influence, it’s outstanding that in the summertime of 2019, United appeared pleased for Fernandes to affix Tottenham Hotspur. Having grown weary of talks with Sporting that had been going nowhere and with nagging reservations about how Fernandes would possibly adapt to the Premier League, they had been ready to let him transfer to north London, significantly after studying Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy had been quoted a a lot cheaper price. However the deal by no means materialised, and when United’s Portuguese scouts urged the recruitment division to take one other look, Solskjaer and assistant Mike Phelan went to look at Sporting themselves, seeing a participant they believed had improved markedly because the finish of the earlier season.

Determined to enhance his workforce’s attacking output, Solskjaer requested government vice-chairman Ed Woodward and chief negotiator Matt Choose to investigate about Jack Grealish, however after that was knocked again by Aston Villa, United ploughed forward with talks for Fernandes. The deal, accomplished on Jan. 30, 2020, might find yourself costing £67.6 million if sure efficiency indicators are met, but when Fernandes continues on the identical trajectory, Woodward can take into account it the most effective worth for cash signing since he took over from David Gill in 2013.

In simply 12 months, Fernandes has established himself as the focus of the membership. There’s already speak of a brand new contract to replicate his standing regardless of already having a deal till 2025 plus the choice of one other yr. His shirt is the most effective vendor within the Megastore, and when it comes time for worldwide broadcasters to submit interview requests earlier than and after video games, his title is often high of the listing. When Amad Diallo has skilled with the primary workforce following his transfer from Atalanta, Fernandes has been eager to supply the 18-year-old winger recommendation and encouragement throughout coaching.

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One of many issues that had impressed Solskjaer most throughout the background checks on the 26-year-old was how properly he had captained Sporting. Having determined the squad lacked leaders when he took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, it was one of many causes Solskjaer has additionally tracked Grealish, captain of Aston Villa. Fernandes was made United captain for the primary time for the Champions League group recreation with Paris Saint-Germain in October. He was sitting within the pre-match information convention with Solskjaer when his supervisor introduced the information. Caught abruptly, the midfielder was frightened the cameras had filmed him wanting confused, and so eager to mission the proper picture, he requested membership officers to tug the video earlier than being assured the whole lot was superb.



Jan Aage-Fjortoft displays on Man United’s unhealthy day on the workplace, dropping to Sheffield United at dwelling for the primary time since 1973.

On the pitch, Fernandes has been simply as fastidiously managed. Solskjaer has admitted to “pulling my hair out” at how typically Fernandes is liable to dropping the ball — even for an attacker making an attempt dangerous passes — but it surely was one thing he was made conscious of by the analysts earlier than Fernandes joined, and the United boss has instructed his gamers, who can generally turn out to be pissed off in coaching and video games, to let him maintain attempting.

“He is anticipated to create targets, rating targets and generally the margins are towards him,” Solskjaer mentioned of Fernandes earlier this season. “He is at all times on the verge of making one thing, even when he loses the ball, and that is the place I would like him in and that is what he is been instructed to do. I would like him to play the passes he sees.”

Solskjaer has mentioned privately that Fernandes is allowed to provide the ball away, significantly given the quantity of working he does to get it again. Members of the teaching employees have tried to encourage him to turn out to be extra considerate in the way in which he makes use of his power, however have since discovered he’s happier charging round, determined to get on the ball and relentlessly urgent opponents. He is identical in coaching, and employees have repeatedly needed to order him inside for concern he would keep out on the Carrington pitches all evening if there was nobody there to inform him to go dwelling.

Following his appointment two years in the past, Solskjaer realised in a short time that the workforce wanted to alter off the pitch in the event that they wished to win on it. New gamers have been key to his mission at Outdated Trafford, and none extra vital than Fernandes. A yr on from his arrival, the choice to signal him has already been vindicated.



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