Old Trafford was in good voice for Manchester United’s new jewel Bruno Fernandes well before their superstar signing was able to claim the penalty that would break the deadlock against Watford and ultimately instigate a resounding success against the relegation battlers on a sunny day at the Theatre of Dreams.
The chants have been quickly adopted and enthusiastically embraced by Red Devils, with the man to hopefully bring the magic to their midfield making just his second appearance at his new home since his move from Sporting CP to the Premier League on January 30.
Following the 3-0 victory, Fernandes was the last United player to leave the Old Trafford turf to make his way down the tunnel and was duly instructed by his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to imbibe the impassioned chorus from the lingering Red Army who vocally pumped out his name in unison.
Decision-making, forward-thinking, progressive play. It’s been a long time since a player in his position excited the Old Trafford faithful quite in the same way as Fernandes managed to incite against the Hornets. He could have farted on Sir Bobby Charlton and it would have been applauded.
It was the manner in which he subsequently stepped up for the spot-kick he had ‘won’ after going to grass from the outstretching arms of former United goalkeeper Ben Foster which should have reason to delight.
In a style echoing the confidence of Chelsea’s spot-kick specialist Jorginho, who has scored 20 penalties and missed just one in his entire career, the applied delay via a ‘hop’ by Fernandes for a fraction of a second forced Foster into making his move prematurely to the left, Fernandes choosing the opposing corner to tuck the ball precisely into the right. Ruthless and cold-blooded: highly-prized, and recently most lacking, adjectives to describe a player for Manchester United. It’s also a confidence that is currently sorely missed down the road, with Manchester City missed five penalties from their last seven attempts.
Smooth, slick, sassy, it’s a moment that hints at the promise of Fernandes’ career at the 13-time Premier League champions, which currently has an expiry date in 2025. At Sporting this season before his mega-money move, Fernandes scored 15 goals and recorded 14 assists in 27 appearances across all competitions, an average of 1.07 direct goal involvements per game. The preceding season, he had finished with 32 goals and 18 assists in 53 total appearances for the Leões.
Refraining from reading too much into his first goal, the display hopefully reflects his demeanour and ease under pressure. Somewhat metaphorically, his teammate Paul Pogba’s infamous ‘twinkle-toes marathon’ run-up has promised a lot, then has notably failed to deliver: the Frenchman has missed four across a span of a little under a year in the last two seasons.
More positively choose to ignore Marcus Rashford’s missed opportunities versus Norwich City and Crystal Palace and instead focus on the execution of the winner at Paris Saint-Germain in the 18/19 season Champions League tie, or the opener at the Etihad against Ederson; that steely determination to do well for his team which is hopefully intrinsic in Fernandes also.
In the shadow of an actual hero, the late Harry Gregg who was commemorated with a gloriously gigantic banner which swept across the Stretford End in the pre-match ceremonies, and on the eve of the great Denis Law’s 80th birthday, Fernandes began his own campaign to place himself in the collective hearts of Manchester United fans. In addition to his debut goal, he completed 100% of his take-ons and won every single tackle he executed. He also even chucked in an assist for the wunderkind from Wibsey, 18-year-old Mason Greenwood who had orchestrated his own fortune before rollicking home for the closer from a simple but effective Fernandes square ball.
In his initial announcement upon moving to England, Fernandes declared that his love for Manchester United began when he used to watch compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, a fellow Sporting alum and none-too-shabby penalty taker himself.
“For me to now play for Manchester United feels incredible,” Fernandes stated to the club website, “I have worked hard to get to this moment and I can promise the fans that I will give everything for the badge to help bring us more success and trophies.”
If Bruno Fernandes can provide even a slither of the majesty that CR7 gave and rewarded to Manchester United, then fans are in for a treat.