Special Talent Bruno Fernandes Another Missed Opportunity For United

May 10, 2019

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For a period in the infancy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United boss, the Premier League side seemed to have their pick of the players in the transfer market.

A major overhaul is needed at Old Trafford, of that there is no doubt. Expected to finish sixth after a brief resurgence following the Norwegian’s arrival back in December, Ole may still be at the wheel, but the bus needs an engine change.

Previously linked with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes, rumours now suggest Solskjaer is prepared to build his midfield around Scott McTominay. Quite the fall from grace, you might say. Having been priced out of a move for Sancho by Borussia Dortmund, and seen Wan-Bissaka confirm his intention to play for Crystal Palace next season, to see another top target in Fernandes slip through their fingers will come as a bitter blow for United.

The Portuguese sensation is believed to be on the cusp of a big money summer move to rivals Manchester City and while the defending Premier League champions won’t have a straight shot at Fernandes, with Liverpool and Chelsea monitoring his situation at Sporting, for United to miss out on another target would be a blow for both their aspirations and their reputation.

Hefty interest in Fernandes isn’t the biggest surprise either. He’ll cost significantly more this summer than he will have done 12 months ago, too. On May 15th 2018, Fernandes and several of his Sporting teammates were injured following an attack by supporters at the club’s training ground after they missed out on Champions League qualification, following which the midfielder decided to leave.

However, he u-turned on his decision to rescind his contract following the departure of club president Bruno de Carvalho and on July 10th, penned a five-year contract with a €100m release clause. Given his fine form this season, Sporting could feel obliged to see potential suitors pay that in full. Indeed, Fernandes, along with Pizzi, is one of only two players to register double figures for both goals (19) and assists (13) in Liga NOS this season, as per WhoScored.com.

Only striker Haris Seferovic (21) has scored more league goals than Fernandes, which goes to further emphasise the latter’s goal getting ability from deep. Having been directly involved in 45.7% of Sporting’s league goals this season, supporters dread to think where the club would be now had he left for nothing last summer.

At the very least, though, fans can rest assured they will receive top dollar for a midfielder whose leadership qualities have shone through time and time again. On the ball, Fernandes is the lynchpin of this Sporting side in the final third. His 19 goals come from an average of 3.8 shots per game, that the highest return in Liga NOS this season, while his 3.2 key passes per game – only Rodrigo Soares (3.6) averages more, as per WhoScored.com – has yielded his 13 assists, that a figure only Pizzi (18) can better.

Boasting an eye for a pass, Fernandes ranks highly for accurate through balls (5) too with the Portugal international able to pry apart defences for the good of his team. He may not dribble as frequently as other central midfielders, but when he does, opponents can endure a tough time shaking Fernandes off the ball as a dribble success rate of 64.4% in Liga NOS this season suggests.

Head coach has Marcel Keizer benefitted immensely from building his midfield around Fernandes, but he isn’t a luxury player by any stretch of the imagination either. While his figures when in possession are impressive, so too is his output when off the ball. 1.7 tackles per game is a respectable return, while only Pizzi (38) has won possession in the attacking third more times than Fernandes (24) in Liga NOS this season. For a team such as City that adopts a high pressing approach, interest in Fernandes becomes all the more obvious.

With the season drawing to a close across Europe, summer transfers will soon take precedent with the gossip columns working overdrive to link the biggest teams to the best players. For Fernandes, he’ll be at the centre of a transfer tug of war among England’s best and while City are supposedly pulling clear, Sporting will hope to use hefty interest in their star man to hike up the price. After what his been his best season to date, the 24-year-old is one who deserves to have his name in the spotlight and a big money summer switch to one of Europe’s top leagues is nothing more than he deserves as Fernandes looks to take his game to the next level.

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Author: Ben McAleer

Ben is a fountain of statistical knowledge at WhoScored.com and has a penchant for all things Luka Modric. Alongside his role at WhoScored.com, you can also find him at Sky Sports, The Guardian and Swansea City

Twitter @BenMcAleer1

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