There wasn’t much to shout about Manchester United over the past few years.
Achieve success under the leadership of a legendary manager Alex Ferguson It seems like a distant memory to the global fan base that watched his great club teeter from one bad decision to the next.
Winning the FA Cup in 2016 under Louis van Gaal and Europa League glory under Jose Mourinho in 2017 were two of the high-profile events in a period that has been uninspiring since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – and a far cry from the 38 trophies that Scott won in 26 meet him. years in the club.
The future didn’t look much brighter in January. The club, now managed by former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, found itself fifth in the league table by the new year.
The football was bad, the atmosphere toxic and star Paul Pogba, who was seen as a saving grace, looked ready to leave ASAP.
But, fast forward seven months, and there are now signs of new life under Solskjaer, most notably since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival.
The Portuguese playmaker appeared at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon in January and was thrown into a squad that lacked creativity, quality and leadership.
Fortunately for his new hires, Fernandez appears to have these three qualities in abundance.
Since making their debut at the start of the year, United have not lost a league match, moving up the table to finish third and qualifying for next season. Champions League For the first time since the 2018-19 season. It was a remarkable achievement considering the club started the campaign by making the worst start to a league season in 33 years.
On top of that, Fernandes brought the excitement back to the red half of Manchester after years of uninspiring, often heartbreaking performances.
His eight league goals and seven assists show what kind of player United now possesses.
“he is [Fernandes] Tell me about the league, how intense it is to play in that league,” Porto star Danilo Pereira told CNN Sport.
“It is no surprise to me to see the impact he has made in Manchester. I think United can go back to their golden years with him and with Pogba and the other players.”
If there was such a thing as a typical Manchester United player, then Fernandes surely would be.
A risk-taker, exciting to watch and able to handle the intense pressures of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, the attacking midfielder became an instant hit.
He’s been a leader since day one. Step up to take (and score) six penalties during his short spell at the club – including the pivotal penalty kick against Leicester City that helped United on their way to the Champions League next season.
Former players and pundits alike have excelled over his performance since his move to England, winning the Man of the Match award in nearly every game he has played.
“You can see that he has talent and that he is not afraid. He wants the ball, which I expect from a very good player,” the former Premier League star and current Monaco player Cesc Fabregas For CNN Sport.
“But what I love is that he’s smart about moving around the court. He knows when to jump between the lines. He knows when to go into space when he sees someone is available to make a slide. He hits the second line fantastically.
“He supports the midfield when they are developing and struggling a bit, and when teams are putting a lot of pressure on them.
“He can play for a long time, he can play short and small passes. He has the character to take free kicks and penalties. He is not afraid. He does not hide. I think Man United made a really good choice. A really good signing.”
Adapting to the Premier League is not easy. It usually takes players time to get used to the nature and pace of the league, but that wasn’t a stumbling block for Fernandes.
Although his performances in Portugal gave an indication of what was to come, this immediate effect surprised many.
“I looked at the player at Sporting Lisbon and obviously someone who scored a lot of goals and someone who made a lot of goals, but there is always a challenge whether they can translate that into a better league and into a new club,” said British journalist Richard Jolly. CNN Sport, Adding that he sees no realistic way to finish United in the top four without Fernandes.
“But he was a transformative and inspiring player in terms of the pace he did, I mean he was really from day one.
“You look at both the goal goals and assists, which is fantastic. If you can maintain that level throughout the entire season, then that’s a great player there.”
– Source: CNN
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While his individual brilliance is evident, Fernandes’ arrival has seen the form of the players around him rise.
The attacking trio Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford Score at will After football returned from lockdown (the team has scored 22 goals in its last nine league games), the likes of Pogba and Nemanja Matic looked more settled in midfield.
Pogba, in particular, is a different player than the one who seems to be under the pressure of being the biggest star in the starting lineup.
The Frenchman’s relationship with the club appeared to hit rock bottom earlier this season with persistent rumors linking the midfielder to a move away from the club.
Fans were also frustrated with Pogba spending most of the season on the treatment table after suffering an ankle injury. When they caught a glimpse of him on the field, he was often frustrated.
But now, since returning from his recent injury after lockdown, there were early signs that the partnership with Fernandes could flourish and the World Cup winner suddenly looks a lot more comfortable.
“I think Pogba likes to be surrounded by big players and big personalities in his own right, and I don’t think he wants to be the only big name out there, so he’s under all the pressure,” Jolie said.
“I think maybe he doesn’t want to be in midfield where he’s surrounded by mediocre players. I think you’ve already seen signs of a little bit of harmony between Pogba and Fernandes which helps, but I think he also appreciates the element he plays with other good players around him.”
Fernandes has been linked with a move to Old Trafford throughout 2019 and there was disappointment when the deal was not completed in time for the new season.
So when the transfer crossed the line in January for an initial $61m (£47m), fans were ready to see what all the fuss was about. It’s safe to say they weren’t disappointed.
“It’s kind of like what Eric Cantona did when he came to Manchester United from Leeds [in 1992] And we won our first Premier League title.” “It was kind of a start to some real success.
“Right now, I’m not saying Bruno Fernandes will lead Manchester United to the same level of success as Cantona, but he’s not just one player coming and making us great.
“He’s one player who came and made everyone around him better.”
It’s easy to forget that Fernandes was only at the club a few months ago, but he has already established himself as a fan favorite – with one particular moment, in a match against local rivals Manchester City, one of the defining moments of his short time. club.
Fernandes was embroiled in a side feud with Pep Guardiola, which resulted in the Portuguese player placing a finger on his lips and silencing the City manager.
“I think Bruno, in a very short period of time, has definitely come in and really absorbed what Manchester United is all about,” Goldbridge said.
“Ultimately there is a fine line between understanding what Manchester United is about and actually being someone who loves the game, wants to play the game the right way, is excited to win.
“I remember his little argument with Pep when we played for Man City, and the fans loved it because I think Fernandes just wants to win.”
While United’s level has fallen in the last two games of the season, fans will still hold on to encouraging signs of life in the hope that this won’t be another false dawn for the club.
Third place, while not commensurate with the club’s real ambition, should be seen as progress and attention could now turn to winning the European League, which is set to resume on August 5.
United face a minor task in the second leg against LASK on Wednesday, as they led 5-0 from the first leg and all secured a place in the quarter-finals.
Although winning the European Secondary Cup for Clubs is not something worthy of simplicity, the real prize is still the Premier League.
Despite all of the club’s improvements in recent weeks, the chasm between it and the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City remains wide – it has finished 33 points behind eventual champions Liverpool this season.
A productive summer in the transfer market could be just what United need, and Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund is just one of the names associated with a switch to Old Trafford.
There have been signs of success during both Van Gaal and Mourinho’s tenures at the club but there is something different about United under Solskjaer.
Perhaps a return to its glory days is not too far away.
“It feels more sustainable and one of the things that they do is they not only beat the teams but, if you look at that winning round, they win a lot of those games quite comfortably and for sure,” Julie said.
“I think what you might see next year is not necessarily that United win the league but that they get the top four more comfortably.”