Reds top table since Bruno joined United
Finishing third at Manchester United is not a big achievement, everybody knows that, but it does represent clear progress for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and that is definitely worth celebrating.
The Reds finished the campaign with an extremely impressive 14-match unbeaten run that began back on 1 February with a goalless draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford. So, what was significant about that day?
As many of you will undoubtedly remember, it was the first time we saw Bruno Fernandes in a United shirt following his January transfer from Sporting Lisbon.
The Portuguese magnifico enjoyed a relatively quiet debut by his standards, but wasted no time impressing thereafter and it’s fair to say he has had a transformative impact on the squad, on and off the pitch.
In the Premier League alone, Fernandes scored eight goals and registered seven assists from 14 matches as United climbed the table in search of a top-four finish, and it was fitting that his penalty broke the deadlock in Sunday’s season-defining win over Leicester City that clinched third place.
Bruno is merely one man, of course, and the entire team has performed excellently throughout the second half of the season, with Solskjaer and his coaching staff working wonders on the training ground to improve our play, but there is no escaping the talismanic impact that Fernandes has made.
As it is often said, the Premier League table does not lie and this next stat is extremely positive for Reds supporters…
TOP OF THE TABLE SINCE BRUNO SIGNED
Results show United have won more points than any other Premier League team since Fernandes made his debut on 1 February, at the start of matchweek 25, with 32 on the board from 14 matches.
For that period – starting on 1 February and ending on 26 July - Solskjaer’s Reds are top of the table and two points clear of second-placed Manchester City.
Recently crowned champions Liverpool are three points behind us in third, with Emirates FA Cup finalists Arsenal and Chelsea both six behind in fourth and fifth.
The Reds also have the best defensive record of any club in that period, having only conceded seven goals, which is a testament to the great work that David De Gea and our defenders have put in.
Neighbours City are the only team who have scored more goals than United's 30.
Speaking as a pundit on Premier League Productions at the weekend, United icon and all-time leading appearance maker Ryan Giggs paid this tribute to the impact Fernandes has made.
“It's a great achievement and the run they have gone on, they fully deserve to be in the Champions League. You want to see Manchester United in the Champions League, whether you support them or not because you want to see the big teams in the Champions League, that is what it is all about.
“I must say, Bruno Fernandes was the turning point. Once you signed him, you have gone from being a team that is brilliant at counter attacking to being a team that can play in-between the lines and the pockets, that can break down teams who come to defend.
“Plus, the form of Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial [has helped] to be fair. So he deserves the plaudits he is going to get, Ole, because it has been a tremendous run.”
‘A STEELY LOOK OF DETERMINATION’
Michael Owen, sitting alongside Giggs in the studio on Sunday, was has also been impressed with United’s finish to the season and believes the Reds can mount a title challenge next campaign.
“The players do look as if they are the next team to go and challenge Liverpool and Manchester City,” said the former England international. “For a long time now, they have been miles clear of anyone but, on form in the last 20-odd games, United are right up there.
“And I think another tell-tale sign was when they won it there at Leicester, of course they were celebrating and there were handshakes, but there were no crazy celebrations and there was a steely, determined look from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“You could see he was thinking 'this is the bare minimum, we are Manchester United'. So they are not going to rest on their laurels now.”
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