Bruno Q&A: I wasn't expecting to be captain
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes is becoming as popular off the pitch for his pre and post-match interviews, as he has on it with his scintillating and inspiring football.
The no.18 will skipper the Reds on Tuesday night in Paris for our Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain. Ahead of the match, Stewart Gardner caught up with Fernandes to talk about the captaincy, facing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and his memories of United's last game at the Parc des Princes...
Bruno, firstly what was your reaction when the manager told you that you would be captain?
"My reaction was funny because I wasn’t expecting to be the captain [on Tuesday] of course. I found out in the press conference and it was funny because I wasn’t expecting that but I’m really happy. It’s an honour for me to be captain of such a big club and to be captain of the team. You will have the armband but you need to be just the same and the leadership needs to be the same as before. I think everyone has his own way to be a leader and this [game] will be the same for me and the others. It will just be that I will have the armband on my arm."
You were captain at Sporting – what kind of captain are you? Are you a loud captain?
"I’m a loud player [laughs] so it’s not like I will just be a loud captain! I’m always talking with my team-mates, trying to help them and, as I said before, it will not be different than the other games so I need to be completely the same Bruno, but knowing that I maybe have more responsibility than before."
This shows the impact you’ve had given you’ve still not been at the club very long but you’ve been given this opportunity?
"Yes. As I said before, for me it was a surprise because it’s not so long that I’ve been at the club but I think it’s important for me, being the captain, and it shows the coach likes me and wants me to be here and that he believes in my leadership."
Are you a heads or tails man for the coin toss?
[Smiles] "I don’t know, we will see!"
After Saturday’s win do we travel to PSG with confidence?
"Of course. When you win your games always the confidence is higher. I think everyone is confident about having a really good game [on Tuesday]. We know our qualities and we know we will play against one of the best teams in the world. But we have our qualities and I think we can do a really good game and we need to because we want to start the Champions League in the best way."
How have the new players been settling in?
"I think it was the second training session for [Edinson] Cavani and the others have been training with us a little bit more. I think they have started really well. Now it’s about taking the confidence to come in and to play games and to understand what the team needs and what the coach wants from them. But in terms of qualities of course they have good quality for us, they are good players and they will help us a lot. I think we also can help them to settle in as fast as they can."
United had a famous win here last year. Did you watch that game?
"Yeah I remember that game. Also because Diogo [Dalot] was playing and being Portuguese you want to watch your friend. I was watching the game, I see it was a really good, tough game like this one will be. Of course it will be a different game because different players are playing for them and for us, but the most important thing is having the same result as last time."
Diogo’s shot led to the penalty of course…
"Yes we talk about that sometimes! We joke about it because I said to him if the player hadn’t touched it with the hand then the ball would go in the stands for sure! [Laughs] He was a little bit lucky but football is this. These kinds of situations happen a lot of times and I think for what the team did in that game they deserved to go through."
Last year we did well in the Europa League, but for you as a professional footballer, is the Champions League the competition you really want to play in?
"I don’t want to be disrespectful to other competitions but of course I think everyone knows the Champions League is the best European competition we have. The Europa League was important for us, we wanted to win but we didn’t win. But now our focus is on the Champions League and of course you want to play these games because normally the biggest teams in the world are playing in the Champions League and the biggest names in the world are playing in the Champions League, so I think everyone wants to play in these kinds of games. This is really important for us - for players to keep growing and becoming better and better because playing against the best players is the time when you need to improve a little bit more and become a better player."
"I think it’s natural. Of course at the training ground you train all the time with them and you know each other and you know what is better for them and how they like to play. You say one name with whom I enjoy playing a lot and that is Juan. I think he is one of the smartest players, he knows what I want and how I want to play and he thinks really quickly. Sometimes the point is not being quick but thinking quickly and I think Juan is one of those kinds of players and I love playing with him. Of course, having Rashy in front is great. The players we have playing in our attack are unbelievable. They are quick, they have qualities and they can score. As you saw in the last game it was a good pass from me but some players not as quick as Rashy might have had the defender take them, but Rashy did very well and his first touch was amazing to control the ball towards the goal. Also Donny, he’s come from Ajax. I had a coach before from Sporting [Marcel Kaiser], he was Donny’s coach too at Ajax and I know how they want to play and how they like to play – they like that little one-two, that connection and that, if we can say, ‘tiki-taka’ football and Donny is one of those guys from the beautiful Ajax football. They teach that growing up and they give a lot of good players to the world. If you look at the semi-final they played against Tottenham [in 2018/19], most of the players from that team are playing in big clubs and doing well. I hope Donny can do a lot of things for us and I’m sure he will do. Of course though every player has to take time to get settled in the club and I think he is doing well, but he can do much better for us and he also wants to do much better."
Finally, there are so many attacking players in our line-up and PSG’s line-up – are you expecting an open game?
"I think both teams are playing really well in attack. Both teams want to have the ball. Of course the attack of PSG is one of the worst to play against in the world because you know the quality they have. Everyone knows them – [Angel] Di Maria played for United, most of the fans remember him and after you have the other two [Mbappe and Neymar] – they are two amazing players. You don’t need to say a lot of things about them but at the other end I think we also have, in our attack, a lot of young guys who can do really, really well and they can be really dangerous for PSG’s defence. I know in the world of football that the name of Mbappe and Neymar are more talked about than Rashford and Martial, but we will see in this game."