- Bruno Fernandes has been transformative for Man United since January arrival
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fearing for his job when Portuguese star was signed
- Now United look like genuine Premier League title challengers to Liverpool
- Fernandes has contributed more assists than any player since his United debut
- He has been involved in 32 United goals, either scoring or setting them up
- Only Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish have created more chances than him
Manchester United were jeered off by their own supporters in the last league match they played without Bruno Fernandes – a miserable 2-0 home defeat to Burnley back in January.
That demoralising result saw them fifth in the Premier League table, six points off Chelsea in fourth and a staggering 30 behind champions-elect Liverpool, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fearing for his job.
But United signed the Portuguese playmaker from Sporting Lisbon a week after that Burnley debacle and his effect on the team has been utterly transformative.
Bruno Fernandes has been outstanding for Manchester United since his arrival in January
The Portuguese star has transformed United from strugglers into genuine title challengers
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates one of his two goals in the win over Leeds
Having elevated themselves to a third-place finish last season, United now find themselves in second and just two points behind leaders Liverpool.
Fernandes has helped Solskjaer’s team look like genuine title challengers for the first time in several years and the stats lay bare just how important he has become.
Since £47million man Fernandes made his debut for United in a drab goalless draw against Wolves on February 1, no player in the Premier League has been involved in more goals or contributed more assists.
Only Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has scored more Premier League goals and had more shots than Fernandes, while only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish have created more chances.
Fernandes, 26, has scored 26 goals and contributed 17 assists in 45 matches for United across all competitions since he arrived in January.
Taking only Premier League games into account, he has scored 18 times and created another 14. His combined tally of 32 goal involvements puts him well clear of Salah’s 27 and Harry Kane’s 26 in the same time span.
Fernandes celebrates his goal against Leicester City on Boxing Day with a doff of the cap
The sight of Fernandes laying waste to opposition defences has become a familiar one
Since his debut on February 1, Fernandes has been involved in more goals than any other player in the Premier League – with 18 goals and 14 assists during that time
Most PL goals since Fernandes debut
20 – Mohamed Salah
18 – Bruno Fernandes
17 – Jamie Vardy
16 – Harry Kane, Son Heung-min
14 – Danny Ings, Dominic Calvert-Lewin
13 – Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling
12 – Michail Antonio
(Since February 1)
Most PL assists since Fernandes debut
14 – Bruno Fernandes
12 – Kevin De Bruyne
11 – Andrew Robertson
10 – Harry Kane
7 – Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Roberto Firmino
6 – Anthony Martial, Willian, Jarrod Bowen, Mason Mount, Lucas Digne
Salah has scored 20 league goals since early February but is considered an out-and-out forward, making Fernandes’ 18 all the more impressive.
The Portuguese star has 14 league assists in that time, two more than De Bruyne with Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (11) and Tottenham’s Kane (10) in his wake.
Fernandes has quickly established himself as United’s main penalty taker and so it’s a caveat to his scoring feats that eight of his 18 in the Premier League have been from 12 yards.
Nonetheless, that makes him the league’s leading penalty scorer in that time, ahead of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, who has converted seven.
But more than anything, Fernandes has revitalised a United side that was struggling to create enough chances prior to his arrival.
Only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has scored more goals than Fernandes during this time
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne is one of the few to have created more chances
Only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has fired more shots since Fernandes arrived in the league
In terms of chances created, only Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish exceed Fernandes
That’s demonstrated by the fact he has set up 77 chances since his debut, second only to De Bruyne (93) and Grealish (84). The 90 shots Fernandes has fired in league games for United is second only to Salah’s 101 in that time.
His importance to United and their chances of winning the first silverware of Solskjaer’s reign is plain to see.
Indeed, the United boss may have to manage his game time in the new year given Fernandes has started all but one of their league games and five of six Champions League group matches.
He completed another full 90 minutes in United’s 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday night, a result that reduces the gap to Liverpool ahead of their trip to Newcastle United on Wednesday.
It’s now United’s task to keep up the pressure as they host Aston Villa on Friday evening but their outlook at the beginning of 2021 is inestimably brighter than it was 12 months ago.
Fernandes has proved himself a reliable penalty taker – with eight scored in the league alone