Goal of the Month Focus: Fernandes v Everton
Bruno Fernandes's wicked long-range strike at Everton was Manchester United's first goal of March, but was it also our best?
With the Reds a goal down in the early stages on Merseyside due to a freakish and uncharacteristic error from David De Gea, the lads had it all to do against Carlo Ancelotti's buoyant side.
But as fears turned to last season's demoralising 4-0 defeat on the same ground, United responded, with a spell of gloriously positive attacking play built around the buzzing imagination of Fernandes.
They received their reward in the 31st minute, when the former Sporting Lisbon captain turned onto Nemanja Matic's adroit pass and instantaneously fired the ball past Jordan Pickford and into the Gwladys Street goal.
The Everton goalkeeper will feel he could have done better with the Portuguese's shot – the fact that the England international pressed his head down into the turf in frustration after the ball had passed implied as much – but for United, it was a moment of pure joy.
Bruno will no doubt produce better hits during his time with the club, but the thrill of this shot finding the back of the net was a special one, given how rare successful strikes from distance have been – certainly from open play – in recent times.
Before Fernandes's arrival we'd scored 61 goals this season, with 41 provided by our front three, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
With Rashford and last season's top scorer Paul Pogba out of action, we were in desperate need of something a bit different: not just more attacking threat, but a variety of attacking threat.
This goal was clear evidence that a more rounded United midfield was now in gear.
Nemanja Matic's clever little first-time pass released Bruno into a dangerous area in front of the Everton back four and, where other midfielders might have hesitated or considered releasing Martial or Greenwood, Fernandes took it on and was rewarded.
And for all the subsequent focus on Pickford, let's have a little bit of praise for the shot itself. Low, fierce, and with a perhaps underappreciated amount of swerve and dip present, it was probably a lot easier to save in theory than in practice.
Boxer Mike Tyson once famously said "Everyone has a plan – until they get punched in the mouth" and, in a similar sense, you feel it was Fernandes's speed of action and the unexpected trajectory of the shot that caught Pickford out rather than the accuracy.
As a fan, it was just about excitement. Arguably, not since Paul Scholes or David Beckham have we had a player as threatening from outside the box, and if defenders have to close Bruno down the minute he finds a bit of space in those areas, it opens up a world of possibilities for Rashford, Martial, Greenwood or whoever is in advance of the Portuguese playmaker.
Was it March's best? That's for you to decide, but there's little that's more thrilling than a glorious piece of skill from a new player that makes you hungry for the future.
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