We forgive every misplaced Fernandes pass for this beautiful chip to Mata
You can use Bruno Fernandes’ performances since joining Manchester United as a barometer for what kind of football fan you are.
After Fernandes scored the only goal in United’s 1-0 victory over West Brom on Saturday, their first win at Old Trafford in the Premier League this term, did you see a leader who had the nerve to convert his retaken penalty or a lucky chancer who missed his first?
Did you see a talisman who has contributed 32 combined goals and assists in his first 34 appearances for the club, or did you see a luxury signing who had the lowest pass completion rate of any United player?
In short, is the glass half-full or half-empty? We like to think of ourselves as the former, but when it comes to elite modern football, plenty of those involved on the inside tend to fall into the latter camp.
Against West Brom, just shy of one in four passes played by Fernandes were unsuccessful. This propensity to give the ball away essentially paved the way for United to sign the Portugal international in January 2020; according to a Daily Mail report from August 2019, United themselves were among a number of Europe’s biggest clubs to be put off from signing Fernandes in the previous summer due to his tendency to lose possession.
A shaky opening half to 2019-20 later, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to sign Fernandes with any potential competition still scared away. He’s all yours, Ed…for £47million.
Intriguingly, the Mail’s report even quotes the 75.1% passing accuracy Fernandes recorded in 2018-19 with Sporting Lisbon as deemed not high enough by United’s recruitment team. On Saturday, that figure was hardly much improved at 76.8%.
Yet Fernandes was one of the few players to provide any inspiration as Solskjaer’s side once again struggled in a fixture in which they were expected to take the game by the scruff of the neck and play on the front foot.
Sure, Fernandes grabbed the goal, but he was also the only player both clever and brave enough to play passes like this sumptuous chip to Juan Mata.
Following the game, Football365 felt compelled to question, ‘How dour would Manchester United be without Bruno Fernandes?’
As Ian Watson writes: ‘United’s No.18 is the first player perhaps post-Sir Alex Ferguson, certainly the first recruit not named Zlatan, willing to at least attempt to drag his team-mates up to his level, even if it is a losing battle. So many of Solskjaer’s players will take the first hiding place available to them when the going gets tough but Fernandes, time and again, has been inspired when the flak begins to fly.’
Throughout the shitshow of 2020, it’s understandable to look at football being played out as a purely televisual spectacle and question as a fan whether the glass really is half-full or half-empty.
But the more we watch of Bruno Fernandes, the more certain we are that it is almost definitely half-full.