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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Lauds Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo After 5-0 Brugge Win

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2020

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Odion Ighalo and Fred of Manchester United after scoring his team's first goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg match between Manchester United and Club Brugge at Old Trafford on February 27, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hailed the impact of January signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo after they both scored in Thursday's 5-0 UEFA Europa League rout of Club Brugge.

The Red Devils advanced to the round of 16 after a convincing second-leg result at Old Trafford saw them emerge as 6-1 victors on aggregate.

Fernandes, 25, opened the scoring from the penalty spot for the second straight game before playing a vital part in the buildup to Ighalo's maiden strike in his first United start. Solskjaer told reporters after the game:

"Bruno coming in obviously makes a big, big difference. You can see he's got a hand in all the three first goals. What a pass, what a goal Odion's goal was.

"I'm very happy with the contribution of Odion as well up front, doing what he does. He's a target man, we can play up to him, he'll hold it, he's got Juan [Mata] and Bruno next to him and you've got runners then.

"I think as a fellow striker I know how important that first goal is. He's been close a couple of times, you can see he sniffs goals. He wants to be there where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he's sharp in his head. That's a natural striker."

United were quick out of the blocks and enjoyed a string of scoring chances inside the first 10 minutes. They were helped by the early dismissal of opposition defender Simon Deli for a handball inside the box, and Fernandes stepped up to convert from 12 yards.

The Portuguese has two goals and two assists in five appearances for United, and his contribution in helping to tee up Ighalo showed how his influence in the squad (U.S. viewers only):

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

Bruno Fernandes started it. Odion Ighalo finished it 🔥 https://t.co/dzgShFwMlc

Midfielder Scott McTominay scored with an accomplished finish in his first start since Boxing Day following injury, and Fred tripled his United goal tally in one evening with a brace (UK viewers only):

Fred's goal came as a welcome surprise to Solskjaer, who said: "Fred, I wasn't sure if I was going to be alive for the next time he was going to score, he's had so many attempts! One with his right and one with his left. It's been an ongoing joke between us, of course, but he got those goals and I'm very pleased for him."

B/R Football @brfootball

Fred had scored just one Man Utd goal before yesterday. Solskjaer wasn't expecting him to score two in one game 😂 https://t.co/Cv1GDPC8Q5

Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News wrote that Fernandes' increasing authority in this United team is making the club forget about Paul Pogba, whose most recent start was on September 30.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes joined in the chorus singing Fernandes' praises, per Goal:

Goal @goal

Scholes on Fernandes: "He looks like he has brought this team to life. He has made a team that did not look that watchable at times look exciting and very watchable right now." https://t.co/1h4gbmHD14

Solskjaer continued:

"I'm very happy tonight. Obviously we're in a moment now that we rotate a bit, players are getting games, but, when you score goals and play like this, you're going to get more confidence.

"It was brilliant to see the start of the game; I thought they had the right intent, created loads of chances, and, when they go down to 10 men, of course the game was more or less over."

Ighalo—on loan from Shanghai Shenhua—made cameo appearances against Chelsea, Watford and in the last-32 first leg away to Club Brugge without finding the target. A longtime United supporter and the first Nigerian to represent the club, he called it a dream come true to finally get off the mark at Old Trafford:

Manchester United @ManUtd

"It's a dream come true. I'm going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life." @IghaloJude is absolutely buzzing, and so are we ❤️ #MUFC #UEL https://t.co/c4KTrnAOyE

Thursday's hosts recorded 28 total attempts on goal against their Belgian guests—10 on target—and prevented Club Brugge from testing Sergio Romero, per WhoScored.com.

Supporters will count the positives and hope the performance is a sign of things to come, with Fernandes and Ighalo each showing they are settling well at their new club.

United travel to face Everton on Sunday when they make their return to Premier League action.

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