A step in the right direction

March 12, 2020 - 08:25
Manchester United, it seems, are ever so slowly getting their mojo back, and that really is thanks to their new Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes.


BIG HIT: New boy Bruno Fernandes is making a big impression at Manchester United. —  AFP/VNA Photo.

Paul Kennedy

Manchester United, it seems, are ever so slowly getting their mojo back, and that really is thanks to their new Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

United have discovered a real gem in the 25-year-old and while many players who come to the Premiership from inferior leagues take time to adapt, Fernandes has slotted in nicely.

In his eight games since joining United from Sporting Lisbon, Fernandes has arguably been man-of-the-match in each one, scoring three times for his new club.

He was brilliant against rivals Manchester City on Sunday, and while City were nowhere near their best, United were worthy of their two-goal victory. 

I watched the match in the early hours of Monday morning on K-Plus, with punditry provided by former Liverpool FC fullback Jim Beglin.

And Beglin made a good point that may not sit well with the United faithful.

Yes, Fernandes has brought smiles back to the faces of United fans, and yes he certainly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful when he held his finger to his lips and gestured ‘shhh’ to City manager Pep Guardiola.

But is he enough to stop the rot settling in at United? I agree with Jim, he isn't.

Beglin said United need at least three, or even four more Brunos. One world-class footballer among a squad of bang-average players will improve United, but not to the levels they aspire to.

Personally I think four is still too few. United have a world-class keeper (granted, David de Gea has been slightly dodgy in recent weeks), a very good centre-half in Harry Maguire, but for me, are still a long way from being called world-class.

They have some very promising youngsters in Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but really Rashford aside, that’s all they are, promising, with still a long way to go to prove themselves among the world’s best.

The enigma that is Paul Pogba has hinted he now favours staying with United and forming a midfielder partnership with Fernandes.

Yes, Pogba is undoubtedly a huge talent, but the French international is about as reliable as a well-worn facemask in a room full of COVID-19 patients.

United are aiming this season for the dizzy heights of fourth place and a spot in the Champions League (although if the ban handed down to Manchester City remains in place, then fifth will likely be enough to qualify for Europe’s elite competition).

Aiming for fifth place is not what United are all about, but realistically speaking, it is the absolute best they can possibly achieve this season.

I’m not too sure what manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been smoking when he claimed after their victory over City that United were just a couple of players away from challenging for the title because sorry Ole, you are way off the mark.

Right now United are 38 points adrift from Liverpool. A couple of players will not be anywhere near enough to reduce such a sizable gap next season because I’ve no doubt while Liverpool will try and improve, Manchester City will dig deep into their pockets to try and also challenge. So will Chelsea, so will Arsenal and so will just about every other club.

So yes, United are getting better, and with Fernandes settling in so well they are clearly going in the right direction.

But any talk of winning the Premiership in the next few seasons and emulating the glory of days gone by is premature and way off the mark.

Sorry, Ole, United still need to spend big and spend well in the next transfer window, and I've got a sneaky suspicion you are still not the right man for the job. — VNS