Manchester United have been so reliant on Bruno Fernandes that it can lead to inconsistent results and performances.
Fernandes has made an incredible impact for United since signing from Sporting CP a year ago and was named Premier League Player of the Month for a fourth time this past week. That was the first occasion any player has won the award four times in a calendar year.
Fernandes will again be central to United’s chances as they travel to Anfield to face champions Liverpool, holding a surprise three-point lead at the top of the table.
Similarities can be drawn to the Reds side which ran through Philippe Coutinho and having one star dominating the ball does not always lead to the best results. There are signs United are adapting in their ongoing 11-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, but the presence of Fernandes can still detract from other stars like Paul Pogba.
Fernandes’ signing is similar to that of Liverpool landing defender Virgil van Dijk, but United have done it in a different way. Fernandes has come and he has dominated the game – Virgil doesn’t dominate the game, doesn’t dominate the midfield players or the front three, he doesn’t want the ball all the time.
He’s not the focal point of the way the Reds play – he calms them down psychologically but he doesn’t demand the ball to do everything. Virgil gives enough sense of security, whereas that is what Fernandes does and that probably adds to the inconsistency for United.
It’s a bit like when Coutinho was at Liverpool, when you have a player who’s going to be a number 10, or a ball player who dominates. All the attacking impetus of the team – the ball has to go through him all the time.
It takes away from the other players and what’s going to happen to Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and all these other players who also want to be the main player. So Fernandes does it in a different way and in many respects, that has probably added to the inconsistency of Man United because when he doesn’t do it, or when he’s not playing, United do miss him. They miss him physically in terms of what he actually gives them.
Whereas Liverpool miss Van Dijk psychologically. The way Manchester United physically play is really dictated to by Fernandes. Sometimes it really detracts from Pogba because Pogba wants to do that, and then you have got Martial and all the players who also want to get involved in that.
If Coutinho was to return to Liverpool, it would not necessarily improve the team, despite his quality. Coutinho would be fantastic but the team wouldn’t, because it will all be about him being the main player, getting man of the match and people saying he’s the reason they are winning because of the way he plays.
Fernandes is a fantastic player. He’s become much more of a team player than he was early on. That’s probably helped him at Manchester United because Pogba, Rashford and Martial are still influential. In his first 13 to 14 games, it was all about Fernandes, which meant that he was playing well, but Man United were inconsistent. So maybe they have addressed that.