Player Profile: Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese magnifico seeking to make his name in the game

Player Profile: Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese magnifico seeking to make his name in the game

Manchester United signed Bruno Fernandes on Thursday 30 January 2020 after a lot of speculation which started the previous summer and resulted in a lot of disappointment from the clubs supporters. Since the Portuguese midfielder arrived at the Theatre of Dreams, you could sense that his arrival was the start of things to come. Since his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers Fernandes has played nine times, scoring three goals and four assists.

Fernandes, 25, has come into a United squad which was lacking leadership and was in dire need of such a thing. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the middle of a club rebuild which seems to have been something that has carried on since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season – this time though, things were starting to fall in the right places. Fernandes is the type of midfielder that United needed and he seemed to come in at the right time.

Despite football being on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, spirits still seem to be high in the United camp with things developing in the background with United still aiming to capitalise as soon as the football starts again. The Premier League seem to want the rest of the season to be played out, which will no doubt delay the following season somewhat. Fernandes’ presence in the squad has provided a lot of thinking with desire, hunger and everything else back at the club.

Bruno Fernandes was born in Maia which is in the Metropolitan Area of Porto, Portugal on the 8 September 1994 and started his youth football career with FC Infesta in 2002, leaving in 2004 for Boavista, a club he was part of for eight years, other than a five year loan to Pasteleira. On the 27 August 2012, Fernandes left Boavista for Novara Calcio in Italy. He was playing for the youth team for only a few weeks before being promoted to the first team and playing in Serie B.

Whilst playing for Novara, Fernandes played 23 times for the first team, scoring four goals and a further two assists. In the summer of 2013, the Portuguese midfielder signed for Udinese in a co-ownership deal, meaning both Novara and Udinese owned the player, but he was registered to one club as a player. In three seasons (2013/14, 2014/15, and 2015/16), Fernandes played 95 times, scoring 11 goals and a further 13 assists. It was clear his confidence in the game was growing.

The next stop for Fernandes Sampdoria, signing for them on the 16 August 2016, initially on loan with an obligation for them to sign the player permanently. Fernandes played just 35 times for the Italian side, scoring five goals and a further three assists which helped the club finish in tenth place that season. This put him on the radar for other clubs around Europe with Sporting Clube de Portugal entering the fray with intent to bring the player back to his native Portugal.

On the 27 June 2017, after he returned from representing Portugal in the UEFA European U21 Championships, Fernandes signed for Sporting in a deal which was worth around €8.5 million plus bonuses which included a €100 million buyout clause. In his first season playing in the Primeira Liga the Portuguese midfielder played 56 times for his club, scoring 16 goals with a further 20 assists. It was the type of form to get him noticed even more, seemingly putting an end to a poor season for Sampdoria.

Fernandes was starting to show some of the traits he is known for today; leadership, ability on and off the ball, strong tackling, passing and his defensive contribution. The following season (2018/19), was his best in Portugal with the player involved in 53 matches, scoring 32 goals and assisting a further 18 – a total of 50 goal contributions in 53 matches, an average of 0.94 goals per appearance. This was something that got him noticed by United, Tottenham Hotspur and other European clubs.

That transfer saga got a lot of attention last summer with the player being linked to United, then came the dead certainty of the player signing for United which then turned into Spurs taking the lead and a two horse race continuing. The reports coming out of Portugal were believable then towards the end of the season, nothing happened which resulted in a lot of disappointment from United supporters that Solskjaer had only signed three players; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, and Harry Maguire.

In the first half of the 2019/20 season, Fernandes made a total of 29 appearances for Sporting, scoring 15 goals and a further 14 assists. In January 2020, the rumours of United wanting to sign Fernandes started to emerge again and were at first looked at with disdain after the saga ended negatively in the summer. Towards the end of the month, it started to look as if something was happening and before you knew it, the player was playing his last few matches.

When United signed Fernandes, it was a sense of relief that the saga was over and we would be able to see just what the player can bring to the table. His career at United has started well and you can see what he has brought to the team when he plays. After making his debut against Wolves at the start of February, despite the 0-0 draw, Fernandes had a good game, considering that he was settling into a new team and environment. After the match, he was quoted as saying:

“This is what I want to do and what I need to do.

“Everyone knows we want to get into the Champions League places. I am here to help the team conquer this place and keep winning games.”

Solskjaer feels that Fernandes can be a leader at the club, comparing him to United legend Paul Scholes as a player but having a different personality off the pitch. At the time football ended because of the pandemic, Fernandes had played nine times, scoring three goals with a further four assists, which is a good start. Many of the clubs supporters were feasting on what could be when Paul Pogba returns to the fold. On comparing Fernandes to Scholes, Solskjaer said:

“He reminds me of Scholesy as a player but definitely a different type of personality off the pitch.

“Against Club Brugge, when he’s on the bench, he walks around, he speaks to the players who start, he helps them, he gives them points.

“And the ten minutes he played you could see that there’s a difference in our team.

“He’s another conductor and leader and winner. He wants to win. He doesn’t take 99 per cent as good enough and he’s impressed me.

“That’s something you see when you watch him but you don’t know about until you have him in your group. He’s been top class.”

Fernandes is a full international for Portugal, making his debut in 2017. To date, he has amassed a total of 19 caps for his country, scoring two goals. In 2017, Fernandes played a total of two matches for Portugal, making nine appearances in 2018. In 2019, he played eight times. His first goal was scored against Algeria in a friendly, a 3-0 win for Portugal with Fernandes scoring the second goal. In 2019, he scored his second goal, this time the opener, in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Luxembourg.