Featured image courtesy of Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images
Picture it. Under the Old Trafford lights on what had so far been a miserable evening, the grey clouds hanging over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were starting to close in. 45 minutes away from a thunderstorm, Solsjkaer’s job balanced on a knife edge, the great Cristiano Ronaldo facing down the barrel of a Europa League appearance for the first time in his illustrious career.
Luckily, whatever was said at half-time as well as players fighting for their manager, United produced a spirited comeback buoyed on by a deafening cauldron of noise. Then in the 81st minute, with the score now level at 2-2, up steps Ronaldo, delivering the knockout blow in a dramatic night of Champions League action.
Yet another late winning goal in the Champions League for a man somehow doubted by certain, respected people in the media. Whilst Viva Ronaldo is the song of the moment and rightly so, us fans shouldn’t forget the importance of our other Portuguese magnifico.
For he may be a risk taker (and some people in the fan base don’t like how much risk he takes) but without risk there is no reward. He is the man who makes things happen, he was the man who inspired the comeback by doing just that. He threaded a perfect through ball from an impossible angle to set Marcus Rashford away to score. That began an unlikely (yet somehow likely in the context of Old Trafford and Ole’s reign) comeback which resulted in an 81st minute bullet header from Ronaldo after an inviting Luke Shaw cross.
Since his arrival in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has so often been our saviour in times of need, I doubt Ole would still be in a job if it wasn’t for his goal contributions. In the Premier League alone, Fernandes has scored 30 goals and notched 21 assists in just 59 league appearances. To put this into perspective, the player closest to Fernandes on the pitch and style-wise in the Premier League is Kevin De Bruyne. Considering De Bruyne played in the first half of the 2019/20 season while Fernandes was still at Sporting Lisbon until the end of January, it’s impressive reading on Fernandes’ part.
De Bruyne has scored 21 goals and provided 32 assists which for a midfielder is also very impressive. Whilst De Bruyne has provided more assists, he has had more time in which to do so and in a shorter period, Fernandes has scored more goals. Now I’m not trying to start a Fernandes vs De Bruyne debate as the Belgian has been a special player to the Premier League and the most consistent over the last 5 years. My point is more aimed at Fernandes and just how important he is and will continue to be moving forward for Manchester United. Yes, this season hasn’t been his finest, but he’s still delivered during big moments, which he always will do with his risk-taking style of football.
I don’t see De Bruyne getting a hard time for his even slower start to the campaign. I also don’t want to hear that he is somehow part of the problem because of his attitude or that he doesn’t work off the ball. I couldn’t name a harder worker, evidenced by his performance on Wednesday night. He showed the perfect ‘attitude’ by sprinting back on numerous occasions to help a midfield and defence who were vulnerable and struggling throughout.
He won nine ground duels, often through his tenacity and never say die approach. To compliment that work rate, he backed it up with a 97% pass rate, three big chances created and the all-important assist to round off a truly underappreciated performance when our backs were against the wall.
Don’t sleep on our Portuguese Magnifico, he’s here to win and whilst Ole Gunnar’s Solskjaer’s days could be numbered, Bruno Fernandes still has many more magical moments under the Old Trafford lights as he continues on his path to United greatness.
‘You make me happy when skies are gray’- Yes Bruno, yes you do.