United Briefing: What's it like to play with Bruno?
Daniel James says the stories of Bruno Fernandes’s supreme influence on the Manchester United dressing room are 100 per cent true.
The Wales winger, who has enjoyed perhaps his best week of the season so far, after scoring against Real Sociedad and Newcastle, appeared alongside manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as part of the pre-match press conference on Wednesday to preview the second leg against the Basque outfit.
The 23-year-old was asked what it was like to play with Bruno – who has contributed 23 goals and 17 assists, since netting for United for the first time a year ago this week. And Daniel confirmed that the Portuguese playmaker’s infectious personality and relentless will to succeed is just as important and evident for the squad away from first-team action, as it is come matchday.
“It just is what you see on the TV,” James replied.
“Bruno has been unbelievable since he's come in and not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.
“He's a real character and he's brought a lot to the changing room. You can see he's brought a lot to the pitch.”
Fernandes laid on James’s match-defining strike against the Magpies on Sunday, getting the slightest of touches on to Nemanja Matic’s clever pass to set the Wales international through on goal, with James finishing past Karl Darlow to top his goals total from his debut United campaign.
He added that playing alongside someone with the vision of Fernandes makes things much easier and also that the two are working on their on-pitch relationship, which was evident at Old Trafford as James was often the out-ball for United, when we looked to beat the Newcastle press.
“We do speak a lot because I need to be on the same wavelength as him and, if I can know what he's going to do before he does it, then it's going to help both of us,” Daniel added.
“I think in a game, there are times when he's not even looked at you and you know that he's seen your first five [yard runs].
“I've seen so many of those balls this season. It's just great to play with him and, hopefully, I can keep having a great connection with him.”
With James in the midst of arguably his richest vein of form since his memorable first month at the club, when he won the Player of the Month award for August 2019, he was also inevitably asked if he was approaching those levels again, and whether scoring three times in those first four games was unexpected.
"I wouldn't say that it surprised me,” he answered. “I worked very hard to get in this position. I think, at the start, it was a lot of excitement and enjoyment, I was just so happy to be here.
“I believe, in life, you also go through difficult patches, it's just about not about sticking your head in the sand and thinking 'when can I come back from this'?
“It's about reflecting and learning every day, which I have.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
Hopefully, the Reds will finish what we started in Turin a week ago. We currently lead Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate and will aim to complete the job at Old Trafford tonight - should we do so, we’ll be in the hat for Friday’s draw, which will be conducted at midday from Switzerland.
Prior to the game, we’ll have the usual exclusive interview from Solskjaer, as he talks us through a number of notable absences.
On the five-year anniversary of Marcus Rashford’s Reds debut, he tells us who he practises penalties against at the Aon Training Complex, while you should keep your eyes out for more of Matic’s chat with us from earlier in the week.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
Ole previewed the clash with La Real, giving a team news update as part of his pre-match press conference.
Have you seen Dean Henderson interviewing Rashford yet? Check out the full video, as well as this piece reflecting on the moment the pair embraced after Marcus netted his first United goal, in memorable style.
We said happy birthday to Denis Law, while there was a feature on Harry Maguire’s contributions to our attacking play this season.