Manchester United made a couple of bold decisions as the transfer window drew to a close, acquiring both Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo in January – bolstering the squad for the all-important run-in.
During Fernandes’ debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers, fans weren’t happy with the Portugal international playing too deep. After all, when you’ve got such a prolific midfield maestro, you’d want him starting further up the field, right?
Well, that’s true, though not as high up the pitch as you may think. 54-year-old manager, Carlos Carvalhal, has explained Fernandes’ best position – and it’s not #10.
Instead, the former Sporting Lisbon midfielder is best utilised as a box-to-box player. This is coming from the current Rio Ave manager, who has experience when it comes to trying to stop Fernandes.
“He is not a No 10,” Carvalhal told Sky Sports. “He is a midfielder but he has developed that ability to break the line of the defence to score goals. He shoots, he assists, the passes and the free-kicks. But he is not a 10, he is an 8. He is a box-to-box player who understands very well the game. He doesn’t just play. He understands everything that happens around him.
“He can organise the team, he can talk, he can give feedback. He is kind of like a manager on the pitch. He can organise things in the last part of the pitch. He is a really exciting player. He has been the best player in the Portuguese league for two years minimum. He is in that group of players who are among the best in the world.”
This is definitely some high praise indeed. Fernandes is a leader and we saw that on debut as he was talking to his teammates and telling them where to be. Alright, against Wolves he was amongst our better players, though there’s still much more to come from the 25-year-old.
United’s midfield has desperately lacked in goals for so long – even when Paul Pogba was fit and playing. Fernandes’ numbers over in Portugal are simply out of this world. Now nobody is expecting him to score 30+ goals a season in England, heck, even reaching half that tally would be a massive step in the right direction.
Now it’s about performing and showing the world just how good he can be. I wouldn’t expect we’ll see his best until the 2020/21 term, though we should see glimpses of his insane abilities before the season draws to a close.