Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have been keen to play down Bruno Fernandes’ impact on Manchester United before Sunday’s derby against Manchester City but there’s no doubt that the Portuguese has transformed the Red Devils since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon.
Of course, the Norwegian has also lavished praise on Fernandes but he did warn supporters that they shouldn’t ‘expect him to continue like this’.
If there is to be a drop in Fernandes’ form, United fans can be rest assured that the playmaker is still very much in his purple patch after his display against City.
The former Sporting captain played a pivotal role in Anthony Martial’s opener when a piece of quick-thinking from a free-kick saw Fernandes clip a cute ball into the Frenchman’s path for him to volley home.
The playmaker was standing over the ball and looked to be giving instructions to those inside the box as the position of the set-piece appeared to favour the left-footed Fred.
It’s precisely the type of ingenuity that United have been lacking in Paul Pogba’s extended absence this term and a closer look at the goal highlights the growing understanding between Fernandes and Martial.
Fernandes was in conversation with Fred..
Fernandes was giving instructions to those in the penalty box and didn’t take a run-up, suggesting it would be left to Fred
Fernandes didn’t make eye contact with Martial at any point…
Fernandes’ quick-thinking gave Martial the space to finish past Ederson…
That action meant the likes of Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan, who were closest to Martial before the goal, were caught napping for the shortest moment, allowing the Frenchman the extra second he needed to fire past Ederson.
It’s in the tightest matches where the finest details come into play and the opener allowed United to retreat into a deeper position, which invited City onto them and in turn left greater space in behind for the legs of Daniel James and Martial.
With City desperate for an equaliser, Ederson rushed a throw out and Scott McTominay was left with an empty net to smash into to seal all three points.
But without the quick-thinking from Fernandes, United may not have found themselves in a position to take such an advantage.
Michael Owen praised Fernandes and Martial for creating an ‘instinctive’ moment and he believes the Portuguese was trying to trick City’s defence.
‘I lean towards this being instinctive,’ said Owen.
You look at martial here, he’s just looking. Already they know what they’re doing.
‘You can see between them Martial is still looking and he knows what’s going to happen. Fernandes does a decoy point now and he still hasn’t made eye contact. He definitely knows what’s going on but he does a pretend, decoy point even though he has no intention [of putting it into the box] and then bang.
‘There’s definitely something gone on there between them no question at all. Brilliant finish, brilliant free kick’.
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