Bruno Fernandes started at Old Trafford, just 48 hours after completing his £62 million move from Sporting Lisbon. The 0-0 draw leaves Manchester United six points behind Chelsea in fourth, whilst dropping to seventh as a result of Tottenham Hotspur’s and Sheffield United’s results.
Bruno Fernandes Looks Bright as Manchester United Held by Wolves
Bruno Fernandes’ Unexpected Role
With United screaming out for a creative, attacking midfielder, the signing of Fernandes has been lauded by fans and the media alike. And why not? The Portuguese international has been involved in 15 goals in 17 starts for Sporting this season. It was no surprise that his manager threw him in immediately. The deeper role which he adopted was the main surprise of the day.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprisingly opted to play the out of form Andreas Pereira in a more advanced role, which meant Bruno Fernandes played a deep-lying playmaking role; a role in which he did flourish in moments. Fernandes’ skillset matches United’s midfield needs, with him making the most passes (88) and most progressive passes to the final third (44).
Despite this, we did not see that creative spark that United required in order to improve their inconsistent results. Their expected goals metric did not improve; in fact, it still looked average, with United expected to score 0.84. The visitors had the better quality chances, with Wolves’ expected goals being 1.29. Fernandes needs to be at the tip of the midfield, linking the game into the forwards to maximise chance quality.
New Signing, Same Result
Despite Bruno Fernandes’ bright introduction to Old Trafford, it was still a disappointing performance overall. Yet again, Solskjaer’s men struggled to break down a resilient defence, whilst still looking vulnerable to the counter-attack. The frighteningly quick Adama Traore caused Luke Shaw problems all evening, asking dangerous questions down the right-hand side. On a number of occasions, he played in scintillating crosses towards the omnipresence of Raul Jiminez. United’s defending was resolute, though Diogo Jota will be aggrieved that he did not get a penalty after a challenge from Harry Maguire, whilst Romain Saiss squandered a great chance towards the end.
Defending has never been a problem for United this season. In fact, they have conceded the same number of goals as their noisy neighbours, Manchester City. It is what happens at the other end which is worrying for Solskjaer and his coaching staff. Anthony Martial was largely absent from the game, attempting to make smart runs, but lacking a pass from behind. Juan Mata had bright moments, linking up well with Bruno Fernandes in patches, whilst Dan James struggled to make much of an impact. It took until injury time for the best chance of the game, where Aaron Wan-Bissaka played a sumptuous cross into Diogo Dalot, who could only head wide under intense pressure.
It was another game in which United so easily could have won, yet at the same time could have lost: a game that sums up the season they are having. This month could see the return of Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, adding depth and quality into the midfield. The prospect of seeing Fernandes and Paul Pogba linking must provide excitement to United fans. However, without the ruthless finishing and clever movement of Marcus Rashford, it becomes increasingly difficult to score consistent goals, making results such as Saturday’s all the more likely.
Bruno Fernandes made a good first impression to the Old Trafford faithful, but he will expect to hit the ground running. Goals and creativity are needed in Solskjaer’s team – and fast. If United are going to make the Champions League spots, then their new man will have to build on the solid foundations he lay down on his promising debut.