Opinion: Bruno's award triumph says a lot
Far be it for me for tell anybody who they should vote for as Manchester United's Player of the Month.
Yet, in my opinion, Bruno Fernandes was a thoroughly deserving winner of the trophy for the first time in 2022/23 and it was particularly encouraging that the majority of our gigantic fanbase also believed him to be worthy of this recognition.
After an Emirates FA Cup win against West Ham United, when Bruno set up the equaliser, there was a real low point at Liverpool, when we suffered a defeat so hurtful that I cannot bring myself to even the write the scoreline. Thankfully, it was a result that has since proved to be a blip, albeit a painful one, as the Reds continue to show tremendous progress this term.
However, while there was an understanding that the heavy loss at Anfield would undoubtedly prompt an inquest in the media, one man appeared to take the brunt of it - our no.8.
In social media terms, I think it's referred to as a 'pile on' these days.
Fernandes had to face all manner of criticism and seemingly unjustified accusations over his commitment to the cause on an afternoon when, if anything, his exasperation was probably down to how much the circumstances were hurting him deeply, given his unflinching passion for this club.
The idea that he would prefer to come off appeared totally at odds with his personality, a point supported by his incredible endurance and availability. I've always suspected if he got wind of our weekly staff five-a-side game at the Apollo pitch, in the shadow of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, the midfielder would show up with his trainers, eager for a kickabout.
This is a player who gives every last ounce of energy on the pitch and yet he was initially singled out as the whipping boy, leading the news agenda in the wake of the Merseyside mauling we'll talk no more about.
So you begin to worry. Will the fans get swept up in this tidal wave of negativity when feeling so emotional? It's a fact that Bruno has been an absolutely brilliant signing, by any metric, and you only have to listen to Erik ten Hag talking about him to understand just how appreciated he is within the dressing room.
Twice a winner of the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, our Portuguese magnifico has always been so incredibly popular among our support, and rightly so. Yet how powerful is a media movement or agenda? How much sway can it have in influencing opinion? What would Bruno himself be thinking after being targeted in such a specific way after 90 minutes that in were, in no way, reflective of our first campaign under Ten Hag, nor his consistent contribution?
This last question was quickly answered by Bruno in the way he knows best - playing football. A Man-of-the-Match display against Real Betis was capped by a powerful headed goal in a game that said much about the character of the team, but also, individually, the playmaker at the heart of most of our attacking moves. When the Spanish side equalised, the chips were down but the response was magnificent, and appreciated by those inside Old Trafford.
He came closest to breaking the deadlock against Southampton, with a shot that almost everybody thought was in, only to bounce out from a post, and helped the Reds win the Europa League last-16 second leg in Seville that sealed another tie with a team from that city.
And then came a majestic display in the FA Cup comeback victory over Fulham, with a calmly taken penalty getting us back on level terms, before, fittingly, in the dying seconds of the final fixture of a frenetic month, he was the one driving forward and mustering enough energy to rocket home an emphatic finish in front of the Stretford End, for his second goal of the game.
It was definitely enough, in my eyes, to earn him our latest Player-of-the-Month trophy. But what about the supporters, in general? With the vastness of our fanbase, could he pick up the accolade so soon after being lambasted for the Liverpool showing? It was so encouraging to see the agreement with my view that he has simply been our best performer in March.
In my mind, this says a lot about the United supporters. As a whole, they do not get distracted by a media storm or narratives that can distort the reality of what is happening out on the pitch. There was probably little doubt how Bruno was going to react to the events at Anfield but it is heart-warming to know the majority of Reds have responded in a way that is also of enormous credit to them.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.