Bruno: Maybe I am closer to Scholes
The latest episode of UTD Podcast features current Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes and the Portuguese midfielder admits his style of play closely resembles that of Reds legend Paul Scholes.
While Fernandes identified a triumvirate of gold-standard European midfielders in his rundown of footballing heroes, he feels Scholes’s knack for arriving late in the opposition area and scoring goals is more reminiscent of the role he fulfils at Old Trafford.
However, given the scarcity of Premier League football broadcast in Portugal growing up, that realisation didn’t fully dawn on Bruno until after he’d signed for the Reds in January.
“For me, I will be realistic because if I look at all of them, maybe I’m more closer to Paul Scholes than them [Andrea Pirlo, Zinedine Zidane and Andres Iniesta],” said Bruno during his podcast, which is available to download or stream now.
“Paul Scholes was a guy who likes to be in the box, who likes to give an assist, who likes to score a lot of goals, and maybe the ones I said aren’t like that – like Pirlo scored some goals but maybe more from free-kicks, Zidane scored some goals, Iniesta – no-one really remembers Iniesta for scoring goals, you remember him for assists and everything else he did.
“I remember when we were about to play Club Brugge [at home] last season, and I was in the dining room with Fred, and on the television they were playing all Paul Scholes’s goals in a Manchester United shirt [on MUTV].
“We had eaten, but we just stayed there to watch all of the goals of his. And it was funny because I was talking to Fred, and I said to him, ‘You see what Paul Scholes is doing, you need to be closer to the goal, because if not, you will never score!’. And then Fred, in that game, he scored twice!
“I appreciate Scholes a lot but maybe because, at that time for me in Portugal, when Scholes was playing at his best level, it was difficult for us to see English football, maybe it was because Spanish football was closer so it was more on the television, and we grew up with those names. Being realistic, with Iniesta I started to see him when I was 17, 18 years old. In the beginning, most of the players I watched were from Portugal.”
Among those names was an international team-mate who Fernandes went up against in his very first appearance for United, during a 0-0 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in February.
“I didn’t say this before but the first midfielder I really watched and really appreciated was Joao Moutinho who is now at Wolves,” the 26-year-old revealed.
“He was a player who, when he played for Porto, I would watch their games just to see him, the way he moves, the way he did his things. Because, for me at that time, it was easier to see Moutinho than it was Paul Scholes or Iniesta or Zidane or Pirlo.
“With Pirlo, I first started watching him when I went to Italy at the age of 17, and at that point you can watch everything [football from around Europe]. When I was in Portugal and just watching the Portuguese league, for me Moutinho was the reference because in the national team at that time, it was about him. Before him, for me it was Rui Costa and Deco.
“In that national team from 2004, those were the best two we had – for me as a no.10, after them we never had a no.10 like those two. Moutinho is a no.8, and you see now he plays deeper. I always play as a no.8 there, because in Portugal now we play with three midfielders, with a no.6 and with two midfielders in front.
“Normally I’d be more playing as a no.10, or as we say in Portugal, an 8-and-a-half! There is one no.8 who goes that half extra in front, then the other no.8 who goes that extra half back, you know?"
Of course, Scholes excelled in all of those positions during an illustrious 19-year career, in which he secured a position in United’s all-time top-10 lists for appearances (718) and goals (155).
The Treble winner was often compared to his peers in the England set-up, not least Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard but, for Fernandes, there’s no question about who comes out on top.
“I think Scholes was one of the best midfielders in the world,” he continued.
“For England, a lot of people talk about Frank Lampard because he scored a lot of goals of course, one of the best in England too, you have Steven Gerrard too, but I think Scholes is the one who makes more difference than anyone else. And before everyone starts talking about this, I haven’t seen every midfielder in England, okay!
“But I think in the last generation, those three were the three best ones, and for me Scholes was best.”