Football

Bruno Fernandes transfer provides key to unlocking true potential of misfiring Man Utd ace


Bruno Fernandes has been unveiled as a Manchester United player after joining from Sporting Lisbon in a deal worth up to £67.6million. The Portuguese playmaker has penned a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Red Devils and is set to be a key part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans moving forward.

Fernandes is expected to come straight into the starting XI and could make his debut on Saturday against Wolves, with the 25-year-old likely to line up in the No 10 role.

And his arrival could be a huge boost to misfiring forward Anthony Martial, who has struggled in front of goal following injury to Marcus Rashford.

United announced a deal had been agreed with Sporting for Fernandes on Wednesday, with the Portuguese playmaker flying in to Manchester to complete the paperwork.

And the transfer was confirmed by Fernandes’ agent on Thursday before the Red Devils officially unveiled their new signing at Carrington.

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But Fernandes should be worth the cash, with the former Sporting captain having already scored 15 goals and provided 14 assists across all competitions this season.

That haul comes on the back of a spectacular season in which the Portuguese international notched 32 goals and 18 assists.

Six of his strikes this campaign have come from the penalty spot, meaning Fernandes could emerge as United’s designated penalty taker with Rashford and Paul Pogba currently on the treatment table.

Meanwhile, the midfielder was also on set-piece duty for Sporting and has scored from a dead-ball outside the area on three occasions – although two were deflected.

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But more importantly, Fernandes’ movement looks set to unleash Martial’s potential and turn the Frenchman into a potent force once more.

The 24-year-old has scored 12 goals so far this season but has just two in his last eight appearances and looks a shadow of his former self without Rashford.

Martial was isolated in the defeat to Burnley last week, rarely getting a sight of goal and squandering any half-chances that presented themselves.

And while he scored on his 45-minute run-out against Tranmere on Sunday, another frustrating display followed in the 1-0 win over Manchester City in midweek.

Martial has been dropping deep in an effort to get on the ball and impact the game, meaning he is doing a lot of his best work away from the opposition penalty area.

He then has a tendency to look for space outside the box, but this is at a premium with no other strikers stretching defences.

A lack of dynamism means none of United’s current midfield are able to constantly burst beyond Martial, allowing opponents to push up and crowd the beleaguered frontman.

Additionally, creativity from the likes of Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata has been thin on the ground with just four goals and nine assists between the trio.

This is where Fernandes comes in, with the new signing guaranteed to provide ammunition to Martial and carve out chances for his team-mates – illustrated by these diagrams generated using data courtesy of Wyscout.

The Portuguese ace has shown an ability to break between the lines and cause problems driving forward from deep with the ball.

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A number of his goals this season have come after making runs beyond Sporting’s central striker, with Fernandes operating centrally or on the right of a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Sporting manager Silas has deployed Brazilian Luiz Phellype in attack during recent matches, and the 26-year-old possesses a similar build to that of Martial.

This should offer United fans encouragement if Fernandes is able to replicate his form and exploit the spaces created by the movement of others.

The Red Devils’ new signing has scored goals with both feet and possesses enough pace to cause problems when given room to break, meaning he should take attention – and defenders – away from Martial.

The French forward will therefore be itching to get on the pitch and strike up a relationship with Fernandes, although it remains to be seen how potent the star signing will be in the Premier League.



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