Manchester United, back in the summer, knew they needed new faces. Ed Woodward delivered on that front, landing Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James. But Bruno Fernandes’ stunning displays highlight the mistake the club made: they should really have got him sooner.
Fernandes, in just four games, has shown himself to be everything Manchester United had hoped for.
The Portugal international has ticked all the boxes for the Red Devils so far, shining in matches against Wolves, Chelsea, Club Brugge and now Watford.
His performance against the Hornets on Sunday was his best yet, with Fernandes a constant menace on the pitch.
He had the cojones needed to step up and convert a penalty to calm an Old Trafford crowd who were beginning to grow uneasy.
And the 25-year-old was the standout performer on the pitch, playing a major role in goals scored by Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
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Fernandes’ sublime displays since his January move to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon has made him an instant hero.
But they’ve also shown just how big a mistake it was for Woodward not to sign him back in the summer.
It’s been clear for some time – years, in fact – that United have been in sore need of a talented playmaker.
Jesse Lingard isn’t good enough and has never been, despite all the promise of his days in the club’s academy.
The same can be said of Andreas Pereira who, five years on from his first appearance, remains somewhat of a mystery.
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And Juan Mata’s best days have been behind him since before the current Premier League season even kicked off.
Signing a playmaker should have been a priority for the club.
But, in the summer, United somewhat bafflingly chose to neglect the area – and turn down Fernandes in the process.
Had they signed the Portugal international sooner, however, then the Red Devils may not have been in such a dogfight to finish in the top four.
It was clear to many in the summer that Fernandes had what it takes to shine at United and play week in, week out.
So Woodward, while he deserves credit for landing the 25-year-old, also warrants some criticism.
United were too slow in getting him in the door.
And they can’t afford to dawdle when it comes to addressing other problematic areas over the coming transfer windows.
Take this summer, for example. United need a right winger, another playmaker and a new forward.
And Woodward can’t afford to only bring in on or two of the three. He needs to go for the jugular because, if he doesn’t, the club’s rebuild will only suffer more setbacks and difficulties.
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