Sprots

Bruno Fernandes has passed ‘real test’ since restart

Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes has been labelled the Premier League’s best player since the division restarted last month.

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has passed a “real test” with his form over the past month, believes former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol. Since Fernandes’ debut in a goalless draw with Wolves, United are unbeaten in nine Premier League matches, winning six and scoring 20 goals.

By contrast, United’s previous nine matches before the attacking midfielder’s arrival yielded only four wins, with equally as many defeats, and 13 goals.

Named the February Player of the Month and a candidate for the same award in June, the 26-year-old has produced six goals and five assists in those nine league games for United.

Since the Premier League restarted amid the coronavirus pandemic, he has mustered four goals and two assists in four top-flight matches – with United continuing the form they managed before the break.

That has helped the Red Devils put themselves in a promising position to qualify for next season’s Champions League, even if Manchester City’s two-year ban from UEFA competitions is dismissed.

Victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park tonight (8.15pm) would move United just one point behind fourth-placed Leicester with four games of the campaign to go.

While the form of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has even seen some suggest that they can rival Manchester City and Liverpool for next season’s title, their arch rivals having won the last three championships between them.

And Nicol admits playmaker Fernandes, signed in January from Sporting Lisbon for an initial rise fee of £47million rising to a potential £68m, has certainly answered his doubters since football’s return.

“Bruno Fernandes,” he said on ESPN FC when asked to name the best player in the Premier League since England’s top division restarted last month.

“I have to say when lockdown came I thought this would be a real test for him in particular.

“Because he’s been so good before it and made such a difference before it, was this going to be a flash in the pan?

“Was this going to be just a fresh face that brightens everything up and they get some results? The fact is it’s not been.

“He absolutely has been the best player since we started again and has got rid of all those questions certainly I had.

“Was it a flash in the pan? He’s no flash in the pan, the guy is absolute quality.”

United boss Solskjaer has also been full of praise but believes that his side have helped eke more out of Fernandes, just as he has taken them up a level too.

The Norwegian coach said said: “I think its gone both ways.

“Bruno has come into the club, seen how many good players there are at Manchester United, that weve helped him and how his attributes are as well, and its been a good little relationship blossoming and he can also feel we help him improve.

“Hes come in and lifted everyone and its been a very, very good start so far.”

And one of Fernandes’ midfield partners, Paul Pogba, is loving playing alongside the Portuguese.

The World Cup winner told United’s official website: “From behind I just enjoy it. Im enjoying just watching Bruno, [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial and Mason [Greenwood], who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals.

“You just keep applauding, its beautiful… they make me enjoy football every time!

“As well though there is the defensive work that people dont talk about – they do it. The pressing – they do it… thats what you maybe dont see that much.

“Football fans who know football see that and thats the difference that we have and its great to see them at their best.

“I think its about the mentality – the attacking and defending that they do every time – that helps us.

“It helps the midfielders and the defenders and obviously the talent speaks for itself – the goals and the action and the football, everything.”



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