Opposition scouts in search of the supply of Manchester United’s enchancment within the second half of final season did not must spend too lengthy at Outdated Trafford or in entrance of their laptops to work out the first contributor to that uplift.
United gained 32 of their 66 factors after Bruno Fernandes had signed for £47.5million in January, despite the fact that the Portuguese playmaker was solely on the membership for 14 of their 38 Premier League matches.
With Fernandes within the facet United took 2.28 factors per recreation. With out him they have been averaging 1.41 factors per recreation. That may be a stratospheric distinction and whereas it is too simplistic to say the pattern would have continued throughout a season in each regards, the truth that works out as 54 factors in a marketing campaign with out Fernandes and 87 with him highlights the influence he had on the crew.
The entrance three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have been in nice kind post-lockdown, the latter two specifically, however United’s enchancment in entrance of aim owed a lot to the artistic presence of Fernandes, who claimed eight objectives and 7 assists in these 14 video games.
So when groups look to cease United they know they must cease Fernandes. Within the closing few weeks of the Premier League season we noticed makes an attempt at that start, with groups defending narrowly in opposition to United, permitting the much less influential full-backs house to obtain the ball, congesting play within the center the place the 25-year-old wished to function.
Now all of United’s Premier League rivals have had the prospect to see what Fernandes can do, the place he influences video games from and the way he influences video games, in addition to the passes he likes to play. Groups will likely be drilled to chop off the availability line into him subsequent season and make his personal passing choices extra restricted.
Fernandes is a participant whose go completion price is comparatively low, however that is as a result of he typically tries tough passes. It is a danger thought of price it as once they do come off these passes are inclined to result in promising openings.
But when he is pressured on the ball subsequent season, or compelled into areas the place he cannot have the identical affect and his success price with these passes drops, then it can have an apparent impact on United’s recreation.
That’s one thing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his United coaches want to concentrate on, devising their very own Plan B to maintain Fernandes within the recreation when the goal of the opposition is to take him out of it.
How they do that is the place elite-level coaches earn their corn. They may look to drop Fernandes right into a deeper position, altering his beginning place to 1 wider on the pitch, dragging man markers out of their consolation zone, or use the additional consideration on him to unencumber house for the opposite attacking abilities, corresponding to Paul Pogba and that fast entrance three.
Talking throughout United’s Europa League efforts in Cologne, Fernandes put his nice kind in his first half-season with the membership right down to his earlier experiences outdoors Portugal and the religion the membership had invested in him.
“Possibly I feel I play already in Italy, so I understand how it’s to be out of my nation enjoying completely different leagues,” he mentioned.
“In fact, the Premier League is totally completely different, however I’ve the boldness of my teammates, the coach, the workers, all of the membership, and I feel issues are going rather well as a result of when you could have the boldness from everybody you are able to do your recreation and attempt to do your greatest.
“When a membership pay for a participant €55m you could have confidence from the membership! In fact, all of the conversations I had with coach and with my teammates, and, as I say earlier than, the coach on a regular basis communicate to me and mentioned to do my recreation and do what I already did in Sporting, to have the identical confidence, strive similar issues and enhance.
“So when you could have that voice in your again to do your individual factor and serving to the crew with that it is simpler for you.”
Sooner or later it is seemingly that confidence will waver, even when solely barely, particularly if the opposition discover methods to loosen his grip on proceedings. How United and Fernandes reply to that will likely be fascinating to look at throughout the brand new season.