Bruno bringing the beautiful game back
There has been something wonderful about the way Bruno Fernandes has slotted so seamlessly into life at Manchester United and in the Premier League.
Most players, naturally, take time to become acclimatised to their surroundings, but the skilful Portugal international has hit the ground running, oozing charisma and confidence.
And he is adding something to this United team. A little more swagger and nous, a character who does not just want to win but demands it. Perhaps not quite the missing piece of the jigsaw but somebody who consistently makes things happen at the sharp end of the pitch.
He was a beacon of light at Everton after the Reds made the worst possible start by conceding a goal that would have demoralised most teams. Instead, it was so reassuring to see the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men took grip of proceedings, with Bruno at the forefront of everything. There were snapshots of what he offers – creativity and an obvious goal threat. The equaliser was due to his willingness to shoot on sight, something I think we can agree we all like to see.
Yes, Jordan Pickford may feel he could have kept it out but the ball was struck with venom and a bit of swerve and it was on target. If you don't shoot, you don't score.
There was the feeling he was dominating and dictating the play, finding space and posing problems. Aside from the goal, an abiding memory of the fixture will be the way he dragged the ball impudently past two Toffees markers, Richarlison and Djibril Sidibe, during the second half. It was also his effort that led to Odion Ighalo's late chance, and it might sound odd to add that another magical piece of input came when he did not even touch the ball – dummying it with such smartness on the halfway line so Mason Greenwood had a run through on goal.
It was another display that simply had class stamped all over it – against tough opposition.
Word has it Fernandes was frustrated to have to settle for a point on Merseyside, even if the hosts had a late goal ruled out by VAR, but three wins on the bounce followed. The fact he started in the Emirates FA Cup tie at Derby County provided a level of confidence, even arrogance, that the Reds could overcome a tricky test with a degree of comfort, and so it proved.
The Reds won 3-0 and he was elegant against hard-working Championship opposition, even if it was not Bruno's most dazzling performance. What did impress was his reaction to being substituted after 66 minutes for Andreas Pereira. Although Solskjaer may have wanted him to take a breather ahead of the crucial Manchester derby, the playmaker did not seem amused, as has been his general reaction to being withdrawn.
And why would he be? Bruno probably feels he is being deprived the opportunity to register more goals and assists.
Dalot: ‘Bruno’s going to be a legend’
Dalot talks about the impact his compatriot Bruno Fernandes can have at United, with a short visit from the man himself!
On the eve of the game with City, Blues boss Pep Guardiola insisted his club had never been in talks to sign the then Sporting Lisbon skipper during the summer, as had been speculated. This was twisted into being some kind of snub in the press but there was no need for any added motivation for our January recruit to shine in his first Manchester derby.
City were fuming when Bruno was awarded a free-kick after being caught by Ilkay Gundogan but our no.18 had the coolest head on the pitch. Once referee Mike Dean signalled for play to restart, he clipped an audacious pass into the path of Anthony Martial, who supplied a volley past Ederson for the opener. It was great quick-thinking and more evidence of the sharp footballing brain the attacking midfielder possesses.
It was a decisive moment in a big game and we hope he can continue to have such a dramatic impact in such fixtures. Guardiola had something to say to the Portuguese star late on, which prompted a response from Old Trafford's new favourite, and it was easy to understand why we can hope he will be a thorn in our neighbours' side for many years to come.
And so on to LASK. What is our last match for the time being, due to the pause in action, and a comfortable and comprehensive 5-0 victory.
The manager again opted to start Bruno, despite believing there would be a big game at Tottenham taking place the following Sunday, and, although there was only the tiniest crowd there to witness it, this was another display to cherish by the Europa League's joint-top scorer. Such was his influence from the outset in Linz, it was inevitable he would play a leading role in the breakthrough and it was his pass that allowed Odion Ighalo to thump in the opener after a spot of ball-juggling.
There was so much more to appreciate from him, though. Pieces of skill, clever intuitive play and a sense that an understanding with his team-mates is rapidly developing. He set up another opportunity for Ighalo, when the Nigerian hit a post, and generally ran the show. It was a mouthwatering overall display by the Reds in a 5-0 success that had confidence soaring ahead of the trip to a depleted Spurs side, only for the coronavirus measures to intervene.
Nonetheless, we have already seen enough of February's Player of the Month to know he will be scooping more of these individual prizes once he can get back out onto a pitch again and continue doing what he does best.
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