It took time. It took patience. It took months of haggling over transfer fees and bonuses but with just over a day to go in the winter transfer window, Manchester United finally got their man. Bruno Fernandes officially became a Red Devil with Sporting CP agreeing to a €55 million fee + €25 million in bonuses.
🔴 🤝 🇵🇹#MUFC is delighted to announce the signing of Bruno Fernandes!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 30, 2020
The Portuguese international was a target of the Old Trafford outfit since last summer with Fernandes’ breakthrough performances coming in the 2018/19 season for Sporting. He managed to bag 32 goals and 18 assists in 53 games (all comps).
He has continued in the same form this year, already racking up 15 goals and 14 assists in 28 games across all competitions. Manchester united have been a wildly inconsistent side this season with the team struggling at various points of the season. Their counter attacking strategy has only paid off on a handful few occasions while the rest of the time, they have seemed toothless in attack. They have struggled to break down teams who prefer to sit back and not give United’s fast forwards space to run into. The long absence of Paul Pogba through injury has highlighted the same fact in many games. The bulk of the goal scoring has been done by Marcus Rashford but he also remains out for a significant amount of time due to a back injury. This is exactly where Bruno Fernandes fits the bill.
Bruno is an attacking midfielder by trade. He is used to getting involved predominantly in the final third, as his stats should suggest. Not only is he a shrewd creator of chances, he has deadly finishing capabilities too. united have been crying out for a goal scoring midfielder ever since the days of Paul Scholes and they might just have one of the best on their hands right now.
Now let us take a look at how will Fernandes fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s philosophy.
#1 As a Number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 –
Manchester United had revert to a 4-2-3-1 in the absence of Pogba with McTominay (till his injury) and Fred taking their place at the base of the midfield. However, it’s the no. 10 position or the hole behind the striker, that has been the problem. Age seems to be catching up with Juan Mata as he can’t produce the goods on a regular basis. Andreas Pereira clearly does not possess the creativity to play in that position and the less we talk about Jesse Lingard, the better.
This is exactly where Bruno Fernandes slots in. His fleet-footed nature, ability to spot a man and ability to spot a pass will certainly benefit the likes of Martial, Greenwood and Rashford (when he returns).
#2 As a Number 10 or Second Striker in a 3-4-1-2 –
In the last couple of matches, we have seen Manchester United switch to playing 3 at the back. This could be attributed to the loss of key players through injury. While this does give the side solidity at the back, the creativity problem persists up top. United’s current crop of midfielders lack the ability to connect defense and attack. As mentioned earlier, United’s trio of those three players haven’t exactly set the field blazing. Fernandes could solve the problem in that role.
Another scenario could be where Fernandes could be played up top alongside Martial or Greenwood for the time being until at least Rashford returns from injury. He has the experience of playing in that position and it could be an option Solskjaer could look into given the limited number of attacking players in the squad.
#3 As a Number 8/10 in a 4-3-3 –
Now this is only applicable in the scenario when United have a fully fit squad to call upon. That means the likes of Pogba, Rashford and McTominay all starting. In that situation, Bruno is likely to form a midfield trio with Pogba and McTominay. The Scot will be the deepest positioned with Pogba and Fernandes occupying the more advanced positions. This scenario does seem to have a lot of potential, however, chances are that we might not get to see that.
Bruno Fernandes’ transfer is a shrewd bit of business from Manchester United at a crucial juncture of their season. At just 25 years of age, he is an in-form player in his prime. He is exactly the type of player United need at the club. Yes, there does remain a risk with a potential €80 million transfer fee, given the difference in quality of the Portuguese League and the Premier League. He will definitely have to hit the ground running right from the start given the outlay and situation United find themselves in. One can only hope he does the same.