By Ahmed Ali*
After a long wait, Manchester United has announced the signing of the Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes for an initial fee of £55 million, which could be climaxed to £80 million with £25 million in potential bonuses which were agreed in attempts to persuade Sporting Lisbon to lose their superstar.
The bonuses circled around £5million for personal objectives, £5million based on United’s qualifying for Champions league and another £15million related to individual awards including winning the Ballon d’Or. All in all the deal is a big money agreement which speaks volume of the player profile and capability.
Much needed arrival
Only four arrivals before this deal over the course of three crucial transfer windows in which the 20 times champions really needed reinforcements to facilitate the diabolic crisis since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. Part of these problems were also ignited when David Gill left Manchester United.
The deal surely is a sign of relief for the insanely frustrated fans and most essentially to Ed Woodward (Executive Vice Chairman of Manchester United) and to the Glazer family (Owners of Man United), pressure was mounting on him along the Glazer’s with fans discontentment due to the lack of fresh arrivals.
Woodward in precisely has come beneath massive burden from supporters in recent weeks, experiencing malicious chants and having his home attacked with flares, that might have happened because of not appointing a director of football and being too engaged in transfer businesses and footballing matters mostly. As far as Glazers are concerned they are accused of sinking the club into debt, draining millions from the assets while failing to invest in players, development and infrastructure.
United’s Injuries and midfield catastrophe
It should be noted that Manchester United’s midfield like the majority of the key squad have been on the treatment table lately, with the likes of Club’s most expensive signing until now Paul Pogba has been out since 30th September missing 28 games in the Red shirt, joined by the likes of Scott McTominay and most recently Marcus Rashford adding misery to an already slim squad with only Fred and Matic remaining as senior central midfield players in those roles.
With that being said naturally without having an adequate and quality in midfield the strikers will be hung to dry as the current drop of form of Anthony Martial is an example. Young sensation Mason Greenwood is talented but needs time to gel in the squad and Daniel James is just making his first season in Red devil’s shirt after arriving from Swansea for £15 million.
Struggling for creativity
One of the biggest problems for Ole Gunner Solskjaer has been breaking the teams who tend to defend with a low block and entertain less possession. United have seen their players helpless in situations like these due to the deficiency of having an out and out baller and not having a creative star who has the vision and ability to pick out the small pockets of space and break the defensive minded sides which are often smaller teams outside top six.
With the already available players simply not providing the expectations the Old Trafford faithful expect including the likes of Andreas Pereira who has been criticized drastically due to his decision making in the final third and Jesse Lingard who is in the worst form of his career, having failed to score and assist in 2019. Whereas Juan Mata is getting on and should not be relied upon regularly.
This argument is proved by the fact United has lost only twice against the top six sides in the last 8 matches in all competitions, any team with record alike will probably be challenging for the title but instead are fighting for top 4 due to their poor results against lesser oppositions, failing to win against them in 12 such encounters this season.
But with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, the Manchester Club is hoping for reduction in these problems and something to cheer on for what has been a disappointing season so far but doesn’t necessarily mean that the season is over, Can Bruno save them? Let’s find out by learning about him in depth.
What the new No. 18 brings to the table?
The 25-year-old will make the shift from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United just like Cristiano Ronaldo did. Fernandes has spent most of his career in Italy with Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria, so he is not a stranger to playing outside his home.
He has been handed the number 18 shirt which previously is an iconic number in the Reds history with Paul Scholes wearing that shirt till his retirement in 2011, but with the recent departure of Ashley Young meant that the number 18 is available for the skillful player.
He had 16 goals and 14 assists in his first season at Sporting before grabbing a incredible 33 goals plus 15 assists to his name last season. He has already got 15 goals in and 14 goals in 28 matches this season. Demonstrating the fact the lad is an incredible goal scorer who is the only player with most goals from midfield breaking the record of Chelsea’s legend Frank Lampard. He is excellent with all sorts of finishing whether it is left or right foot or simply chipping the keeper.
Not only that, he has a very creative imagination, either playing an early cross from the edge of the box or whipping in ground crosses. He also has the tendency to play one touch passes with striker and Martial could be viable option whilst also playing pin point crosses to Rashford on the back post in which he has scored 3 goals.
Manchester United presently do not have a target man so aimless crosses are easily handled by the defenders but with Fernandes precise passing and crosses it will make it easy for forwards to score goals.
Manchester United have also not managed to score from a corner this season in the premier league, with Club Captain Harry Maguire not scoring once despite outscoring every defender at Manchester United last season at Leicester City before arriving, but this season he is goal shy which indicates certain lack of quality service from set pieces but with Bruno Fernandes arrival this sort of opportunity is his specialty.
How will he fit into Solskjaer’s Manchester United?
Considering his promising talent on the ball, Fernandes is attractive because of other aspects as well including his versatility to play as a No.8 or No.10 giving Ole Gunner Solskjaer much required flexibility and could well be a source of injection for a start of Plan B for the Norwegian which is absent since his arrival.
He is also a serial leader and has also been a captain of his former side now Sporting Lisbon, Leaders are invisible in the Red Devil’s squad as they represent the youngest average squad in the Premier League which is the sole philosophy of Ole’s tactics. But 25 year old comes with a high profile as well as with leadership skills making it a best fit for United.
Ole’s persistence with the 4-2-3-1 means Bruno will most likely be used at the number 10 spot being allowed to have the freedom to connect passes and find runners and unleash early through balls to get Rashford, Martial and James to exploit their pace and get in behind either a low block or a high defensive line. By Solskjaer 4231, the number 10 is the focal point for the chance creation as we have seen Ole doing it in Molde as well as currently applying it in United.
He can go back to 4-3-3 formation which he adapted at the start of his time at Manchester United with two Number 8’s and one Number 6. But for that it requires a destructive holding midfielder with Scott Mctominay coming back from injury, he can most definitely be used there. Prior to having ball playing Centre backs Lindelof and Maguire combined with two No8’s the No.6 can solely focus on winning the ball. This strategy gave the United Legend’s his job being made permanent and aided in breaking the record of most consecutive wins.
Conclusion on the new arrival
Regardless of the positon Bruno Fernandes plays in, he will without a doubt going to improve Manchester United starting XI, with an attractive CV he is expected to be the Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester United and help them get top 4 this season by achieving double figures if he continues his form at one of the biggest club in the world, he just needs to replicate the form he showed in Liga Nos to the Premier League, which is a big ask but huge number of fans will be waiting for him to justify his price tag and ability. If he does so, he will be the pivot of United’s success and fix their problems but if he fails to adapt to the pace of English top flight then he will join others who failed the expectations and add to the club’s tension which keeps on missing on transfers since 2013, but it should be pointed that United will require more new faces than the Portuguese if they want to revive the standard which Sir Alex left them with.
Review on 50 Million star’s Debut
Bruno Fernandes made United’s Debut at Old Trafford against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier league. He showed a promising display considering he shortly arrived and had a light training season as described by his new teammate Luke Shaw.
Bruno Fernandes Debut by numbers:
• Most touches (58)
• Most passes attempted (46)
• Most shots (3)
This clearly shows the player does not fear taking any sort of risks but the fact United experienced another lackluster performance (0-0 Draw V Wolves, dropping United to 7th Place) points exactly to what ex-Red’s Legend Gary Neville comments that United need more than just Bruno and the irony that United’s squad cost was £458 million and still they have major issues which shows serious problems in the recruitment department and more work needs to be done, football minds are required rather than business experts in the club in which they are respectable already.
*Ahmed Ali is a student of 3rd Semester BS (Media & Communications) in Foundation University Rawalpindi, Pakistan and can be reached at [email protected]