Bruno Fernandes has scored five goals in his last three games for Manchester United; Listen to the latest Pitch to Post Preview podcast below or on your preferred platform; Watch Southampton vs Man Utd on Super Sunday from 1pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 2pm
On the latest Pitch to Post Preview podcast, Sky Sports News reporter James Cooper explains how Bruno Fernandes has become Man Utd’s leader on the pitch.
The midfielder has been a revelation since his January arrival and after a dip in form at the end of last season, has rediscovered his touch.
He has scored twice in two of his last three club outings in all competitions – against Everton, where he also picked up an assist, and Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday – as well as netting the winning penalty against West Brom in the other game, albeit at the second time of asking.
Fernandes also handed penalty duties to Marcus Rashford in the Champions League, despite being on a hat-trick, and Cooper feels it is indicative of his leadership qualities for Man Utd.
He told the Pitch to Post Preview podcast: “I think the team spirit is pretty good and I think there’s a mutual respect between the players in a way that hasn’t been there before. I also think there’s a brittleness there that needs to be dealt with when things aren’t going right.
“There have been moments this season, especially at Old Trafford, when the team has needed to be galvanised by a leader on the pitch, there aren’t many leaders in this team at the moment and I think they’ve missed the fans as that galvanising force to get them going.
“But in terms of leaders on the pitch, look no further than Bruno Fernandes. He does the unexpected, not only with the ball at his feet but also with the ball in his hands giving it to Rashford. I think he revels in doing the unexpected, he said afterwards it was a deal, he said he would do that as he did similarly last season with Anthony Martial when he needed goals.
“It was nice it was tucked away at the fist instinct rather than second time lucky for Fernandes. There might have been part of him thinking ‘I can’t afford to miss this and not get a hat-trick’.
“So I think it worked out really nicely and it said an awful lot about the kind of mutual respect between someone like Fernandes, who has come in to the situation at Old Trafford, and Rashford, who has been there an awfully long time, knows how Man Utd works and in terms of a footballer on and off the pitch, is flavour of the month.
“Politically, it was very astute of Fernandes and it’s nice just to see him as a driving force at Man Utd. The other thing that struck me in the second half [against Istanbul Basaksehir] when it didn’t quite go as easily or as comfortably in terms of cohesion is you take Fernandes out of it and Man Utd don’t seem to be on the front foot as they are when they’re on the pitch.”
‘Fernandes demands so much of other players’
Man Utd have now won their last three games with Fernandes having a huge hand in each, which is vital ahead of a tricky trip to an in-form Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
Sky Sports News reporter Cooper believes Fernandes is acting like Man Utd captain, adding: “I think he’s played a lot of football in a very short time and that’s one thing that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reminds us about when we talk about the difficulties in form that some players are having.
“It was a very tight pre-season and Fernandes played a bunch of games for Man Utd last season and like the team, he was almost on his last legs. But when he’s playing well, Man Utd are playing well.
“You look at making comparisons between him and other players and that half volley against Istanbul Basaksehir was reminiscent of Paul Scholes at the edge of the area at Valley Parade against Bradford or Wayne Rooney’s volley against Newcastle at Old Trafford. He hit it that cleanly. His second goal too, it was a goalkeeping error but there are so many times in recent history when Man Utd players haven’t been on the front foot in the right place and yet there he was.
“It’s difficult to say that it’s someone who should be made captain of Man Utd but the way he’s behaving, the way he’s doing things at the moment would almost lead you to believe he is the captain on the pitch, he is that driving force, he demands so much of other players.
“One lesson he may have learnt while we’re seeing the best of him, Ole and some of the other coaches might have said ‘we like your passion, we like the fact you care so much but just try and keep it in the box a little bit’ because I think there is a balance there between demanding a lot in the right way and getting onto players.
“I think there is a fine line there and maybe the argument at the start of the season was that his frustration was boiling over. I think we’re seeing a more contented Fernandes, a fitter Fernandes and because of that, a better Man Utd.”
This week on the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast, Peter Smith is joined by Michael Bridge and Charlotte Marsh to look ahead to a blockbuster London derby between title hopefuls Chelsea and Tottenham. James Cooper explains how Bruno Fernandes has become Man Utd’s leader, and we analyse Arsenal’s creativity problems.
Plus, Tim Thornton has the latest from Leeds and Sheffield United – including the story of how the Blades almost signed Diego Maradona! Charlotte then makes her bold Pitch for what she thinks will happen in this weekend’s Premier League action…