Bruno Fernandes: United's Portuguese magnifico
It’s been less than a month since Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes completed his transfer from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United, and already we’ve seen glimpses of just what a special talent we might have on our hands... and he’s already got his own song!
An eye-catching cameo in the Europa League draw with Club Brugge in Belgium followed, before another award-winning performance against Watford at the weekend - which yielded his first goal for the club, as well as a big hand in the other two goals.
But how did Fernandes make his name in Lisbon? What kind of player is he? What is his personality like away from the pitch? We speak to fans, a journalist and a United legend to get some answers…
Exclusive: Our first Bruno Fernandes interviewVideo
Tom Kundert, Portuguese football expert
“I’m always happy to talk about Bruno Fernandes. What a player! People will get to know him quickly, because he can do things very few players can. His long-range shooting is amazing, but his most outstanding asset is his passing – not only his execution but his vision. Sometimes you think ‘what... how did he even think about that pass?’ and you’re up in the stands! You’ve got a view of the whole pitch and even you can hardly see it. He sees it and pulls it off. In Portugal, you’ve got three teams that are so much better than the rest, so a lot of the time they’re facing massed defensive ranks. You need players who can do something a little bit different. They call them ‘a tin-opener’. He’s a perfect one. When there’s no way through he seems to find one, either with a spectacular goal or a fantastic pass.
“If you take a more holistic view, his attitude is absolutely first-class. Sporting have been playing in a pressure-cooker situation for the last few seasons. They’ve had a bad time, falling further and further behind Benfica and Porto. It’s a massive club, which brings a lot of pressure, and a lot of players can’t really handle that. Bruno was exactly the opposite. It didn’t seem to matter how poor Sporting were. He always maintained a very high level.
“He’s definitely a leader. Also, you have to factor in that he’s had a very interesting career already, because he took the very unusual step of going to Italy as a teenager. I think it’s fair to say he’s carried Sporting over the last couple of years. He’s played about 60-odd games a season, every minute of every game, the Nations League. He went to the World Cup. That’s a lot of high-intensity football for three years solid. So I don’t think going to a new country will faze him. I really do think he’s one of these players, a bit like Cristiano – he’s made it his mission to get the very utmost out of his career.”
Bruno's debut in 90 secondsVideo
Ivo Costa, Núcleo do Sporting Club de Londres
“I was dreading the day he left! We knew that Man United and other teams were interested because of his goal average, which was phenomenal. For a guy in his position to score that many was just unbelievable. We just realised: ‘Let’s enjoy it while we have him’.
“I watched Bruno every week, and he was very influential. A couple of years ago, some supporters went to our Academy and tried to beat up the players. It was all politics. We had a great team, but lost seven or eight players, and Bruno threatened to leave. But he came back as co-captain with Nani, and, if it wasn’t for him, we would have been in dire straits. He has been the league’s best player for two years.He was always the one trying to motivate, trying to organise the players, putting his heart and soul into the club. He’s a very spontaneous guy. What makes him good is that he takes risks with the ball. Of course, that sometimes means it can be dangerous for the team, but Bruno is excellent.
“I actually have a bunch of friends involved in cinema and theatre in Portugal who are minor VIPs that are friends with him. They always say that he’s top-notch; a really nice guy, down to earth and always very friendly. I think he’s going to be great for Man United, though it’s not the best news for us.”
You've got to see this Fernandes free-kickVideo
Steve Black, home-and-away Red
“When we signed him, my first reaction was to ask the gaming generation – ie my sons! They both rated Bruno, and kept telling me how great he was. I’m always sceptical, but there seemed to be a lot of positivity around this man, and he clearly offers something different.
“I think the whole team has missed a leader, and somebody who can create. Somebody who can find Martial, not with his back to goal, but in front of him. Someone to unlock things. It appears from the two games we’ve had, that we may have found it. He’s shown a lot of inventiveness and doesn’t have to get everything technically correct to make his pass. He knows where he wants to get the ball and does it quickly.He will have loved it at Chelsea. I saw spirit in the United side that night. Fred has been terrific recently, but now he’s got a foil that can do the bits he can’t do in a game. Matic can protect that back four. The players seemed to play better knowing they could find him, that he was always available. Maybe you couldn’t see it on telly, but he was everywhere and offering an option, which brings space. And the second goal was lovely to see. He knew exactly where he was going to put the corner-kick and leathered it on to Maguire’s head.
“I like him. I like his character.”
Bruno's best bits from our Watford winVideo
THE REDS LEGEND
Lou Macari, attacking midfielder (1973-84)
“The role of a midfield player has always been the same. You’ve got to get about the pitch, get a few tackles in, get forward, get back. And if you ask most players who play in midfield, they’ll tell you that they find it quite a difficult position to play in with the demands. You’ve got to be fit, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to want to do your little bit of defending as well for the team. I don’t think Bruno’s going to let us down in any of those departments.
“He looks confident. If you were at his first game at Old Trafford and someone said, ‘There’s a newcomer on that pitch’, you couldn’t have picked him out. He blended in as if he’d known the rest of them for the last 10 years. He looked to have a shoot-on-sight policy, and that should stand him in good stead and get him a few goals at United.
“They’ll have watched him probably every week this season, because we’ve got that many scouts. I’m just hoping that the big strength he’s got is putting the ball in the back of the net, because I’ve felt all season that’s something we’ve lacked from midfield – a natural goalscorer.
“But for someone who’s played most of his football in Portugal, first of all it takes a bit of time to find your feet, because the pace of the Premier League is probably twice as fast. He will find 90 minutes a lot tougher in our Premier League. I noticed that when he came off against Chelsea, he was puffing and blowing a little bit.
“But he had a good debut with promise and he looks like he’ll get a goal or two for us. He had that set-piece outside the box where he hit the post at Chelsea, which was good to see. It’s an added bonus when you’ve got somebody who can do that. But the early signs are good. Let’s hope it can continue.”
This feature first appeared in United Review, our official matchday programme at Old Trafford.