Manchester United were awful throughout their 2-0 defeat at Tottenham, but Bruno Fernandes still managed to produce a salivating piece of skill to that almost tempted their away support to forgive their team.
Fernandes, who was named the club’s new captain over the summer, is able to kill you with either a smile or a snarl. A trick or a tantrum. A jaw-dropping moment of ingenuity or the kind of petulance normally only the reserve of your sibling.
And the Portugal international produced something spectacular on a hazy summer’s evening in north London that managed to illuminate a concerning performance from Erik ten Hag’s side.
With the game goalless, Alejandro Garnacho received possession on the left wing and sent Pedro Porro into a trance with his bewitching footwork.
As Porro lumbered over, Garnacho laid the ball inside to his colleague. With Spurs allowing Fernandes the amount of space that’s normally the birthright of an English nobleman, the 28-year-old caused jaws to drop with the filthiest of rabonas.
To his eternal shame, Marcus Rashford was unable to transform Fernandes’ moment into one for the Louvre.
Over on Twitter, Gary Lineker admitted his ‘arousal’ at the rabona cross. We’re with you on this one, Gary.
“Coming here to play against Manchester United is not nice, it’s not nice,” Fernandes told MUTV after the lucky win over Wolves in their season opener.
“And we don’t want to be the nice ones. We have to be the toughest ones. It has to be tough to play here because the fans here, they create a difficult situation for the teams that come from outside. And us on the pitch, we have to do the same.
“We have to give that passion. We have to put everything on the pitch. And after it’s about the qualities we have on ourselves, we can make a difference. We can score goals, we can create and we can defend.”
The new United captain is at the forefront of the team’s quest to build on last season’s third-place finish and League Cup triumph.
“I think that here we always have to fight for the maximum objectives,” Fernandes told ESPN in Brazil this week. “Ours has to always be to win all the trophies we are included in.
“This has to be there, regardless of whether we are capable or as good as the others. We have to realise that we are one club that deserves it and that, as history says, has to be among the possible candidates.
“But, in my opinion, we have to think about it game by game. Understand that we need to win our games, not worry about the result of others and in the end do the math and see if it was possible.
“We were very competitive last year, and we showed that we are closer not to others, but to what we want and aspire to be. Now it’s up to us to show that last year was a little bit of what we can still be and improve.”
The first-half against Tottenham was even, the hallmark of both teams being a work-in-progress rather than the finished deal. Which, considering its still August, is completely fair enough.
But Fernandes has already produced one of the best moments of skill you’re likely to see all season.
By Michael Lee