Since his arrival at Old Trafford Bruno Fernandes has done no wrong. He has talked the talk and walked the walk. He has great qualities on the ball but it’s his determination and focus that stands out. He is a leader on the pitch. He is setting standards above what has previously been there under Solskjaer’s reign from a player. And it has sparked that little bit extra from the players around him.
United are now playing a level above what they have played all season and it’s the belief that the players have in Fernandes that’s driving them on. He has been demanding on the pitch, looking for the ball at every opportunity. But he is also demanding quality passes, quicker passes and correct decisions. His teammates can feel that he has moved to Manchester to achieve special things and it is exciting them.
While his attitude is spot on and his quality on the pitch is there for everyone to see it is still early days. He has only played nine games, but it has been a good start for him. To be a leader you need to demand more from the players around you while performing impeccably yourself. Three goals and four assists has made sure that all around him know that he is the real deal. But it is easy for fans to get carried away and believe that United can all of a sudden challenge for titles again on the back of one players performances.
We all know Paul Pogba has been a disappointment on his return to Manchester. While there are sporadic glimpses of his brilliance in most games, there are also continuous passages in games where he disappoints. His stats going forward are always good. He has been United’s most inventive player in the final third and most productive midfielder going forward. Even within a substandard United team Pogba each year seems to find himself in and around the top ten players in the Premier League for the most chances created, most shots, most assists etc etc while also trumping all of his teammates in nearly every attacking stat going.
The statistics that are worrying are :
– Pogba lost possession 602 times in the Premier League last season. Only 12 players lost possession more often.
– Only 10 outfield players had more failed passes than Pogba which was 355 times in the Premier League last season.
– Pogba was dispossessed 89 times in the Premier League last season. Only five players were dispossessed more frequently.
While Pogba is creatively good going forward for Manchester United he does put alot of pressure on the team when losing the ball as much as he does. This is where Bruno Fernandes could change United’s fortunes. Himself and Pogba haven’t played together yet but when the Frenchman finally does he will soon find out that Fernandes wont settle for that type of substandard play. He will demand more from Pogba. But along side that Pogba will raise his game as there is now a challenge within the team. He is no longer seen as the big fish. There’s a new sheriff in town. Without uttering a word Fernandes will get that extra percentage out of Pogba as he has done with the rest of the players by setting new standards. With Bruno in the team Pogba could step up a level or two and all of a sudden United’s midfield looks dangerous. Although it is United’s last hope for Pogba.
But is one Bruno Fernandes enough? What happens if he injures a knee cruciate and is out for 9 months? No leader, no demands, no-one to set the standards needed to push for top four. The players drop a level and Manchester United are then back to their inconsistent selves again. He is just one player yet the Red Devils team and season are so heavily reliant on him. Pogba is not a leader, he needs to be inspired to get the best out of him. He would fade again too.
Obviously there is only one Bruno Fernandes. Cloning is not an option. But what is meant by needing more than one Bruno Fernandes is that United need two or three more players with his mentality, his standards and his leadership to help carry the team when others are maybe injuried or suspended. Asking Fernandes to carry the club would be unfair and unwise. United need to approach their next signings with a clear vision. It’s standard that players need to be of a high level technically and athletically. United need to scout the ‘captains’ of Europe. Bring in winners/leaders. Those that are driven by success and high standards on and off the pitch. We are not talking about players like Jack Grealish and James Maddison who have still alot to prove and maturity levels are still questionable.
Purchasing Saul Niguez from Atletico Madrid would bring Manchester United back to the table as one of the top three midfields in the Premier League if not Europe. Niguez under Simone works his socks off and covers every blade of grass on the pitch. He shows the calm and control of a Sergio Busquets in possession. Also he has been versatile under Simone by stepping in at left full when needed.
Harry Kane scores goals, it’s really simple. He has lead Spurs year in year out with thorough professionalism and played at the highest level of his game. Yes Daniel Levy will make sure it’s a deal that United may financially feel a pinch. But Kane has the mentality and the years on his side to successfully lead the line at Old Trafford and to inspire others through not only his goals but his professionalism.
The one signing Solskjaer should pursue is Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig. The 21 year old has been commanding in Germany and is a beast of a centre back, which United need due to the inconsistency and rotation at the back beside Maguire. With a game that can inspire and lead others and a contract that expires in June 2021 the Frenchman will be allowed leave this summer. And with reports suggesting his transfer fee has dropped from €60million to €40million it’s one Ed Woodward needs to get moving on. They lost out on Varane and De Ligt, they need to be on the ball this time.
These type of players would cover the huge gap of inspiration and leadership that would be lost if Bruno Fernandes was out injuried. It very well may not be all of these players, it could be other players of similar ilk. But these transfers are possible. If United don’t move quickly off the back of Fernandes successful start then top four may be a struggle still. The more leaders on the pitch the more likely United are to be successful. At the moment Fernandes is the only one capable of driving on this Manchester United team, and if they lose him they lose more than just a player.