Could Manchester United cope without their Portuguese Magnifico?
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Could Manchester United cope without their Portuguese Magnifico?

16/05/24 16:27

After Manchester United’s 3-2 win against Newcastle last night, Bruno Fernandes made a bold claim about his future for the Red Devils.

The Portuguese international claimed that he will “be here until the club wants…if for some reason the club don’t want me then I will go” putting to bed rumours of a move elsewhere after the Manchester United man hinted at a move away from the club after Euro 2024.

Bruno has been a pivotal piece of the jigsaw at his current club and earned the captaincy in Ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford.

But his individual success in a United shirt has been overshadowed by a difficult period for the 13-time Premier League champions.

Bruno has been putting up impressive numbers since his debut in 2020, amassing 79 goals and 65 assists in 231 appearances for the club.

The former Udinese and Sporting Lisbon midfielder became the first player to win four Premier League POTM awards during his first full season at the club, proving instrumental as Manchester United finished second.

Since then, his offensive output has dwindled as the Portuguese star finds himself orchestrating from a deeper role.

This season, if you’ve watched Manchester United, it’s apparent that Bruno has been rash and seems frustrated. He can be seen sulking or mouthing expletives under his breath at full time, fuelling rumours that United’s number 8 could be looking to leave the Theatre of Dreams.

The debate was set ablaze when Fernandes spoke of deciding his future in the Premier League.

Talk of potential interest from Italian Champions Inter Milan and German giants Bayern Munich engulfed the internet as an exit looked on the cards.

But how would Erik Ten Hag’s side fare without their star man?

Since joining the club in the winter of 2020, Bruno Fernandes has only missed two games through injury, after he suffered a wrist injury in the FA Cup semi final against Coventry.

Testament to his character, Bruno played out extra time and penalties in order to guide his team to their second FA Cup final in consecutive years.

But Fernandes’ resilience did further damage to his arm, meaning he had to sit out as Manchester United took on Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

Ten Hag opted to replace his captain with Mason Mount who has recently recovered from injury himself. But Bruno’s absence was sorely missed.

United were beaten 4-0 at Selhurst Park as Oliver Glasner’s side danced circles around the reds. A dismal display all round saw Mason Mount chase shadows taking up Bruno Fernandes’ role as Will Hughes and Adam Wharton steamrolled the United midfield. While Casemiro was forced to vacate the midfield to act as a makeshift centre back.

Having failed to net in a Premier League game for the first time in 16 outings, United looked lost in possession creating 0 big chances and an XG output of just 0.35.

While Mason Mount wasn’t signed as a direct replacement for Bruno Fernandes, his performance at Crystal Palace proved that the 25-year-old was not the answer to filling the gaping void left in Bruno’s absence.

There was no doubting the Englishman’s efforts, but it’s like using a plastic spoon to sharpen a pencil, it just doesn’t work.

It was then revealed that the Manchester United captain would miss their next game as Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford. It was always going to be a difficult game for the home side but Arsenal walked away comfortable winners having not got out of second gear.

Ten Hag was forced to start a returning Scott Mctominay in the 10 role as Mount had been ruled out yet again for his new side.

But once more, the Scotsman was not able to replicate the capabilities of his Portuguese teammate as United once more created 0 big chances in another spineless showing.

Anyone will tell you that United missed their captain and his 113 chances created up to this point, but it’s not just creativity that Bruno provides.

For all his dives and falls, the United man is a warrior in the middle of the park. Having been required to drop deeper in an injury riddled United team, Fernandes boasts impressive defensive numbers.

This season, the 29-year-old has made 198 ball recoveries as well as 38 tackles and 135 duels in midfield. Incredible numbers for a traditionally offensive minded player.

His grit and determination is something United sorely missed against Arsenal and Crystal Palace. Fernandes’ catches a lot of heat for being supposedly selfish and crude, but his underlying numbers suggest he is the right man to wear the Captain’s armband.

Under Ten Hag, he has developed into a more complete player, sacrificing his remarkable goals and assists records in the process.

In his first full season in Manchester, Bruno Fernandes racked up 28 goals and 18 assists from midfield cementing his place amongst the best players in the world.

Since then, he has almost been a victim of his own success, being held to such high standards out of position. Under the current management; Bruno has been deployed on the right and as number 8 limiting his effectiveness in the final third.

But the Manchester United star has still racked up double digits for both goals and assists in every season at Old Trafford, providing some massive moments for United fans.

Regardless, a player of Fernandes’ quality should have accumulated a large trophy cabinet at this point of his career.

At 29, the midfield genius has only won a single trophy at Manchester United, a carabao cup, not exactly a feat to brag about. Nearing the end of his top-level playing career, should Bruno Fernandes jump ship or will he be rewarded for his services to Manchester United?

If he was to leave, Erik ten Hag would not find it easy replacing his captain. It’s already been established that Mason Mount offers something entirely different and would have to adapt significantly in order to fit the shoes of Bruno Fernandes.

But with a reported value of £70 million pounds, United could look into the transfer market for a successor.

While Bruno stands alone in Europe regarding his unique playstyle, United might find the best option could be to move away from the profile of their current captain when searching for a replacement.

Suitable options close to home could be Eberichi Eze, or even Lucas Paqueta. But with new owners potentially opening up new avenues at Old Trafford, it could open the door to a possible deal for a better value option.

While unlikely, a wildcard, affordable substitute could be Alex Baena of Villareal. The Spaniard has 17 assists as well as 5 goals this season operating off the left of a four man Yellow Submarine midfield. But the 22-year-old is capable of playing in the centre of the park.

With Jim Radcliffe insisting that Manchester United’s days of overspending on transfers are behind them, the Spanish international could be a cut-price alternative and could be available for under £40 million pounds. A bargain, in this era.

But, following Fernades’ comments after their recent 3-2 victory against Newcastle, where he notched an assist on his return to the side. United fans can be hopeful of a few more years from their Portuguese Magnifico.

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