Read every word from Bruno's extended interview
We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Bruno Fernandes at the Aon Training Complex recently, to ask him about his 2020 - the year when he joined Manchester United and made such a mark on the Premier League.
He was honest, informative, cheeky and thoroughly engaging - as is usually the case - and below we've typed up every word from this extended interview...
2020 has been an odd year for everybody but how would you assess the whole 12 months for you?
"I think the first 12 months, the 11 months for me [here], have been great. Of course, the main thing I want, I didn’t achieve, until now, is the trophies. That is clear. We really can do that in 2021 and, of course, I think, at the end of everything, what we did in the last 11 months was really good. I’m very happy to be here and to be part of this biggest club."
"I think it is a number of things, you know. All of them. First, my family helps me every day because I live with them most part of the time. Well, maybe most part of the time I spend with my team-mates! But, of course, the time you pass at home, you have to enjoy the time. It is a difficult time now because everyone knows about the virus and so you have to be in your home and you have to be with your family. You cannot go out as many times as you did before but, of course, my family is always there for me. I know they will be there for me for the rest of the season and, of course, the most important [factor] to settle so quickly in the club, and in the Premier League, was my team-mates. All the staff help me a lot. I’ve said before, in other interviews, it was really important for me, when I arrived, to feel the confidence. It was like when I arrived on the first day, I feel like I am part of this family and so I think this is really important for a player."
In terms of the football, you have taken to the Premier League like a duck to water – what is it about the game here that suits your style?
"No, I think the team, like I said before, helps me a lot to be part of the game, to be a big part of the Premier League and to be doing well. I think, of course, with the help of my team-mates, it makes things so easy, you know. Of course, when you play with these kind of players, it makes it easy. First of all, of course, nobody knows, most people don’t know who Bruno is before. I think, maybe in the beginning, you are a little bit like a surprise and I think the main thing for me, the most important thing, is to keep doing well – better and better, game after game, day after day – because it will be more difficult. When you start playing, the players know you better and the teams know you better so you need to improve a little bit more. The most important thing for me now is to start improving more and more."
You enjoy your football so how did you find the game with Leeds – was it one of the most entertaining matches you’ve ever played in?
"I think, yes. I think yes, of course, when you score lots of goals, you are happy. You are not happy to concede two goals. We want to have clean sheets, of course, but I think, at the end of the day, the most important thing was that it doesn’t matter if we score six or not. If we score three, it was enough, 3-2 and we go home with the three points. That’s the most important thing. Of course, we want to win and we want to score goals. We want to show our best qualities we can but the most important thing for us, for the team, is winning. We know the fans want to see goals, skills, some magic things but the most important thing, for us, and what we need to think about is winning."
"I think, as I’ve said before, it’s easy when you play in a team like Manchester because there are so many good players around you. They help you to be better and I am here to help them be better. So I think, of course, numbers are really good but, as I said before, it is now that I need to start to improve. It will be more difficult from now and I mean difficult day-by-day and game-by-game because the players will know me better. Of course, I am really happy to have these numbers and, obviously, it is not easy to get to this point with these numbers but I want to do better and better, more and more. I want to finish the Premier League this season with more goals and assists than games. That would be good."
That is a good target to have. You’ve also got more goals from outfield play than any other midfielder in the league so that’s another one you’re ahead on at the moment…
"Oh, I think I have more goals than other midfielders also with the penalties. For me, that is the one we count. Penalties are there to be scored and you have to score. As I’ve said before, it’s part of the game. It’s important to score the penalties, important to have goals from penalties. They will be there in the future and they are there in the past. I need to keep improving in that also. I know the qualities we have from my team-mates up front, they have qualities to go one against one so many times and it’s hard to stop them. So sometimes they will need to stop them with fouls and fouls means free-kicks and penalties. I need to be ready, me and the rest of the team who can take the penalties or free-kicks or something else, we need to be ready and we have to improve on those situations. We can also score more from free-kicks and corners. We have the qualities from the takers and we have the qualities from the guys who are inside the box to attack the goal."
We know about your penalty technique, the little hop, although you don’t always use it. You see lots of kids all across the country practising it in training and all trying to do that when they’re taking penalties…
"I see some ones on social media. Of course, it’s really nice to see when someone is doing what you normally do. But it is not the movement of Bruno Fernandes, it is a movement I do that everyone else can do. I think, of course, when someone compares to me or says that they see me or want to do the same, it’s really good. I think for us, as players, one of the biggest things is to inspire the others to do good things. If someone else is doing it the same way I do and he thinks I will do it like Bruno because I think it is good, it is because we are doing a really good job and in the right way. So the most important thing for me if someone is doing something like I do, it’s a good thing."
Aaron Wan-Bissaka told us you were laughing about his goal at Newcastle and we’ve seen you have jokes at Marcus [Rashford] on social media about a miss costing you an assist, is that a way you drive your team-mates on?
"I think it’s important, you know the spirit of the group is really important. I like to joke with the players. As I’ve said before, we are like a family. We spend a lot of time here [at the Aon Training Complex]. We go to the hotels and to the games and have a lot of time together. We have to have that connection, a good connection, so we are also having a good connection on the pitch. With Az, it’s not just me. Nobody knows Aaron can shoot like that. It was his first goal for Manchester, yes? His first goal in the Premier League also? So, of course, everyone was surprised because, even in training, he never shoots. With Marcus, there is always that kind of joke with him and Anto [Anthony Martial]. I say to them every time I pass to them, they never score. They never give me assists. You see again that Anto missed that chance against Leeds. Straight away, I looked at him and started smiling. He understands what I mean with that. I think it’s good, it’s positive. Of course, sometimes you have to shout at your team-mate and call him to do different things, that’s also a big part of the game, that you’re pushing a bit more for the other team-mates. Sometimes it’s with a smile, sometimes with other things, but the most important thing is understanding you’re doing your best for the team."
In terms of 2020, can you pick a favourite goal, of yours, in the calendar year?
"The next one, I hope [laughs]."
If there’s still enough time this year! What about your favourite assist, do you have one of those at all?
"Favourite assist? I think the one against Leipzig for Rashy. For me, it’s very important when you are in the centre of the pitch you need to know where you are, if you are marked or not, if the guy is coming to press you, where your team-mates are. I like, for me, I think that kind of pass is good on the first touch. When you see someone running from behind, it’s really, really good. I think this is the one I remember now, like think quick, make quick and doing a good thing. As I say, with the guys up front – Marcus is really quick. I just need to put the ball behind the defence and I know he’ll arrive first, before all the defenders and all the goalkeepers. I think, in that moment, the way I look before I receive the pass from Fred, I see the movement from Rashy and that is maybe the best assist I’ve made up until now."
What do you feel was your best individual performance – is there one game, in particular, that stands out?
"I don’t know, it’s difficult to choose one. Of course, when you score, the games you score in, everyone always looks for that one. I really like the one against West Ham, the 45 minutes against West Ham away. I think I come in with the right mentality, positive body shape and everything was perfect. We go from 1-0 down to 3-1. I think it was one of my best games also because I set up my strikers and they didn’t score – Rashy again! I hope he can see this! [laughs] But, of course, I think it was one of my best games, best performances and I can say the best half a performance I have had in the club. There were also many games I did really well in but, in all of them, having space to improve a little bit more."
A survey noted the players who have played the most minutes across world football in 2020 and you were fourth. Harry Maguire was top, Ruben Dias, who you know from Portugal, was second and Lionel Messi was third. It shows how much you’ve played over the course of the year…
"I’m not happy. I need to say this to the coach: ‘ I want to be the first one!’ Of course, it’s really important to play. The more games and more minutes you play, the more confidence you have. It’s always like that. I feel the confidence from the staff and the coach. It’s very important for me as this is part of the way I am settling down. I feel the trust from the coach. ‘I need you and I want you to play, I will give you the chances’. When you see the minutes I have had this season, it’s trusting in me and I have to give something to the club.
I guess a key question is what do you think you and the team can achieve in 2021?
"I will say, every time, the same thing for me. At the beginning of the season, I said we have to fight in all the competitions we are in. Now it is still the same. We’ll look for the Carabao Cup, against Everton as the main one. After that, we have to achieve trophies. It’s all about trophies – the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, in the Europa League and the league. We have to go for all of them. We have the team to do that and the qualities to do that. You have to believe until it is not more possible, that you can fight for all of them."
Do individual trophies matter to you? You could be in the frame for the PFA Player of the Year, the Footballer of the Year but is it all about the team goals for you really?
"If we win trophies, it is the most important thing. Of course, it’s good for a player to win individual awards and I will never say I don’t want to be the best player in the league or I don’t want to be the PFA Player of the Season. I want to be [that] but I want to be [that] if the team wins trophies. If the team does win trophies, for me, it’s the same. For me, the most important thing is to help my team-mates to also be Player of the Season. That’s the most important thing because, if someone from the club is Player of the Season, it means that we do very, very well this season. I think we will always be happy if someone else takes an individual award because it means the team is doing well. Nobody in football, a team sport, wins an individual trophy just doing well himself. You have to do well but you have to have the help of your team-mates to do well. When you have an individual trophy, of course, you are doing really well and deserve the credit but that credit goes to the team because they help you do better and better."
"I think it’s important for us inside to understand. The club have a lot of media behind, a lot of people talking. They will be talking all the time. They want to talk when you lose, they don’t want to talk when you win, because it is better to attack than to defend the club. I think the most important thing is, inside of the group, we understand what we have to do, what we have to improve, where we are and where we want to go. For me, the most important thing is like when we lose, we are not the worst. Of course if you lose, you did mistakes and you need to go into training the next day and think what can we improve now to not make the same mistakes in the next game. For me, in life, it is always like that. In your entire life, you do mistakes. It is impossible not to do mistakes in your personal life, in football, in other sports. You always make mistakes because without mistakes, goals do not exist. It’s impossible in a game of football. Of course, if someone takes the ball and shoots from 40 yards in the first two seconds of a game, you can say maybe nobody did a mistake. But someone maybe needs to mark him and maybe the coach of the other team will think it’s a mistake from my midfielder or my defender who didn’t mark him and gave him too much space. In everything in life, you have to improve and understand you’re not the worst and you are not the best. There is always time to improve. It’s impossible to be the worst because you have time to improve, and it’s impossible to be the best because you always have time to improve. If you see Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Messi, they are improving all seasons. How is this possible? Everyone says it’s impossible to do better but, every season, they do better and better and better. It is 11 years fighting for a Ballon d’Or and this will never happen again. It will never happen again in the story of football because they are still improving and I have the chance to be with Cristiano in the national team. I see the way he wants to improve every time, in free-kicks, in shots, in headers, in penalties and you want everything. You want to improve every time. When you lose, he knows he has to improve more and when you win, he understands he needs to go to the details of the good [work] to improve a little bit more."
We know you’ll have challenges over Christmas but is one of the biggest ones that Santa could bring your daughter games as presents that you’ll have to learn so you can beat her at them, like Uno?
"Yeah, maybe yes. I don’t know which kind of games I will choose but I need to beat her, that’s the most important thing. She’ll learn, she has to improve, she has to improve! If she loses, she has to improve and learn a little bit more! But, of course, for me, Christmas is one of the most important times of the season. My family, we always did Christmas together, the whole family in Portugal, and I really love this time – not for the presents part but being with the family. My entire life is about friends and family being together, having dinner together and playing games together. For me, this time of year is to enjoy with your family. Of course now, having kids, it’s more important for them. For me, the most important thing at Christmas is making Christmas the best I can for my little babies."