From watching Udinese’s backroom staff playing games, to giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka pointers on his first day and slamming new team-mates after draw at Everton… Bruno Fernandes is the born leader Manchester United have missed
- Bruno Fernandes has taken the Premier League by storm at Manchester United
- The effects Fernandes had not only on the pitch, but off it, were immediate
- Fernandes galvanises groups in a steely way on the pitch and convivially off it
- United legend Bryan Robson has been singing the praises of the Portuguese star
There is a tale they regale in Italy about the three years Bruno Fernandes spent at Udinese that serves to condense quite why Manchester United’s new pin-up has such natural magnetism.
The effects Fernandes had around Carrington were immediate, players and staff feeding off his charm when the club required a lift. He galvanises groups in a steely way on the pitch and convivially off it.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new midfielder drives players on but has always made a concerted effort to build a rapport with those that make up the backroom staff, too. That much was evident on the astro-turf pitches in Udine.
Bruno Fernandes has hit the ground running at Manchester United since his £68million move
The Portuguese star immediately won Premier League Player of the Month in February
Fernandes, accompanied by his labrador Simba, would often make an appearance to watch some of Udinese’s unheralded coaches and medical team play small-sided matches. ‘They couldn’t believe a Serie A player would go and watch,’ a source said.
The Portuguese, who moved to Italy when he was 17, had become close to plenty of them, understanding the graft that went in behind the scenes. A warm character, that sort of thing helps to create bonds.
United have already witnessed his dedication, reaping those rewards before the suspension of the Premier League season.
On the day the club completed the formalities of his move from Sporting Lisbon, Fernandes asked to do a session with a fitness coach despite none of Solskjaer’s first team being present at Carrington and despite his daughter Matilde celebrating her third birthday.
His debut against Wolves was fast approaching and the 25-year-old wanted to be as sharp as possible. Others in the squad will have noticed the commitment. Fernandes, who travels to training with Diogo Dalot, has always maintained a ‘first in, last out’ mentality.
Fernandes appears like the leader that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been crying out for
Fernandes has given pointers to both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Fred since his big-money arrival
Unwittingly or not, Fernandes has raised standards among team-mates wherever he has been. Solskjaer spoke glowingly of how the man who could end up costing £68million has energised United and that is as much to do with attitude as it is ability.
Yes, he has more assists, created more chances, taken more shots and played more passes in key areas than any other since his arrival but the things lesser-spotted are ultimately just as important.
After his first full training session, Fernandes was giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka pointers on how he could produce more from right back. He has been seen giving detailed instructions to Fred during warm-ups before matches.
They are little things but things United have lacked for so long in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. Telling the team that a point at Everton, his sixth game for the club, was just not good enough is probably an idea that very few have argued in recent times.
The 25-year-old can be seen shushing Pep Guardiola during the Manchester derby
How many United players over the last few years would have shushed Pep Guardiola during a Manchester derby should the opportunity have arisen, and then come out and stood by it? Zlatan Ibrahimovic, definitely. It is hard to think of many, if any, other examples.
Fernandes said: ‘Some people think like, “Pep won everything, who is Bruno to do this to him?” But I think it’s about respect. Now, outside of the pitch, calm, I don’t do this again if I’m on the pitch now.
‘But at that moment, the words he told me made me mad and on the pitch I’m a little bit nervous. It’s the kind of player I am.’
That must have been music to Solskjaer’s ears and reminiscent of the emotion that went into a leaked WhatsApp voice note of him slamming his Sporting team-mates last year. Again, Fernandes did not shirk it afterwards.
Here is the leader United have missed. One of their greatest ever, Bryan Robson, has been paying particular attention.
Bryan Robson has been singing the praises of United’s new arrival from Sporting Lisbon
‘Bruno looks as though he has got that natural leadership quality, where he demands from his team-mates and that’s good,’ Robson said.
‘I think it helps that he was captain at Sporting. I just think it’s something that is naturally in you.
‘What I do like to see when he’s on the pitch is, even though he’s a forward-minded player, he’s already swivelling and looking on his shoulder, demanding of his team-mates.
‘He’s telling people to push in and have them where he wants them, which is great.’
Good enough for Robson, then good enough for United.
Fernandes showed his true leadership skills during his three years at Udinese from 2013-2016
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