How Bruno Fernandes Changed the Culture of Manchester United

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportMarch 16, 2020

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park in Manchester United, north west England on March 1, 2020. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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It was just 13 minutes into his Manchester United debut that Bruno Fernandes showed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he was the man they had been looking for.

The boss had seen his wonder goals, witnessed his enthusiasm in training, but here he was going into a sudden 50/50 tackle with Portugal team-mate Joao Moutinho.

Those close to Solskjaer's backroom team say they were delighted with the way he dealt with that moment. As the ball span free after an initial duel between Andreas Pereira and Diogo Jota, Fernandes swept in with a hard, fair challenge that left his compatriot on the turf.

It has been a while since there was genuine optimism around Old Traffordbut the doom and gloom has lifted, and their major January signing is a major reason for that. He's changed the mentality both on and off the pitch.

He's got the tools United have been missing in a midfielder, and that moment against Wolverhampton Wanderers, as Moutinho took two minutes to get back to his feet, helped set the tone for Fernandes, who is United's new Portuguese darling and now the February Premier League Player of the Month.

Fernandes has not lost a game since arriving at United, and every person at the club has been lifted by his arrival. He's brought intelligence, craft and tenacity on the field and determination, professionalism and joy around the training complex.

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This United team are no longer in crisis. In fact, they have seemingly forgotten how to lose, and it's no fluke this run has coincided with the signing of Fernandesa man who has changed the culture of the club.

That tackle on Moutinho in his first match displayed a desire that United have often lacked in the centre of the park. In these early weeks, even former club captain Roy Keane—the harshest of critics—has been impressed. 

As one United insider puts it: "There are very few players to have made such an early impact on the football club."

An assist at LASK in the 5-0 win on Thursday was his fourth in a United shirt. He also has three goals to his name, but his influence runs much deeper than that.

From his first training session, team-mates discovered how adventurous Fernandes is in his play. He wants the ball in any situation, no matter how tight the space, and he wants to get the ball forward. If the odd pass goes astray, it doesn't matter. The risk-reward has become obvious, and United have become easier on the eye, with his sense of urgency starting to spread.

Midfielder Scott McTominay has been particularly boosted by the arrival of Fernandes. Sources say he has a similar mindset to the Portuguese in terms of expectation, and he has loved the constant demand for everyone to meet his high standards. Solskjaer feels McTominay will improve most out of all his midfielders, and B/R was told that it has already become apparent that Fernandes is keen to help the Scotsman develop, pulling him aside to offer simple words of advice when he feels he can help.

Insiders say Fernandes' arrival has also helped breathe new life into Fred, who has revived his career at United.

Fred has been in good form for some time, but his growing friendship with Fernandes away from the club has been apparent to those around the training ground. The pair communicate in Portuguese, but insiders feel their connection has helped the overall midfield unity. 

Fernandes does speak English, something that impressed United before signing him, but spent his early days close to the Spanish and Portuguese speakers in the squad.

The bond with Fred was built in that time, during United's training camp in Marbella as United headed for some sunshine during their winter break. Figures around the team are convinced that those days in Spain have proved crucial in helping him settle.

There was one night out in particular, organised by captain Harry Maguire, that brought the squad together and has had an impact on the atmosphere therein since.

Bleacher Report was also told that Fernandes has joined up the dressing room by helping those who do not speak English fluently and helping them converse more easily with the English talkers.

Other individuals are benefiting from his play—particularly Anthony Martial. The free-kick the pair combined with each other to score against Manchester City is just the beginning of a partnership that is expected to flourish over time.

As a personality, Fernandes is charming yet also outspoken. That is, perhaps, what United needed just as much as a new creator. One of the key reasons he was signed was because of his leadership skills, and already that is paying off. "If he is not happy with something, you know about it," a source told B/R. 

The fans love him already, and his performances have brought fresh joy to the stands of Old Trafford. He has his own chantand that moment when he hushed Pep Guardiola has become somewhat iconic.

This isn't the first time he has had such an impact.

At his last club, Sporting CP, players were disappointed to see him leave. Not only did Fernandes have great stats—63 goals and 52 assists from 137 matches—but he was motivating the side with his attitude.

Inside the dressing room, he could inspire players with his words, and when he stepped on to the pitch, he  displayed a non-stop work ethic that made everyone around him strive for greater things. "He was infectious" is how one Portuguese source described him to Bleacher Report.

Only Liverpool have collected more points than United since Fernandes arrived in Manchester.

Their momentum has been temporarily halted by the break in play because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there is every reason to believe that the Fernandes evolution is only just beginning.

             

Listen to Dean on the B/R Football Ranks podcast. New episodes every Wednesday. Subscribe here.

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