Manchester United look like a completely different team since the arrival of Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes during the January transfer window, taking the same path as Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani from Sporting Clube de Portugal. Unbeaten in their last 16 matches, United have seemingly gone from strength to strength, which is a good thing.
Should United score three or more goals against Aston Villa on Thursday evening, United could become the first Premier League team to win four consecutive matches by three or more goals, which would be a good achievement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season with the club seeking to find the path back to success and challenge for trophies.
Fernandes has not yet tasted defeat when playing for United, which is also a good sign and something that will eventually come, whenever that may be. United do look like a rich better side than they have been since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the 2012/13 season, which was also the last time the club won the Premier League title.
In March 2019, former United coach Rene Meulensteen lifted the lid on an early visit to Ferguson office when he was first promoted as a first team coach at the club. Four key demands were outlined at the time; pace, power, penetration and unpredictability. Speaking to the Coaches’ Voice about this, Meulensteen said:
“He was standing by a flipchart where he’d scribbled notes down over three pages: one on defence, one talking about possession and one about attacking.
“When I see United attack, I want to see them attack with four things: pace, power, penetration and unpredictability’.
“When he left, after 26 years in charge, that identity went with him. Those four things disappeared. It was laboured. It was slow. Too many touches. No runs.
“Now, you see those things coming back in. Because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was part of that.”
Meulensteen revealed a year ago that he though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was bringing those aspects; pace, power, penetration and unpredictability back but a laboured first half of the season before Fernandes’ arrival left the door open on the Norwegian achieving what seems to be his task; making United successful again.
The Portuguese magnifico has brought back the creativity into the squad, which is a great sign of progress and this has also seen penetration and predictability brought back into matches, which can be seen by the scorelines of recent matches, especially the 5-2 victory over Bournemouth at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday afternoon.
This has also seen the pace and power of United talented attacking line brought into the fold which since Fernandes’ arrival has seen Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood thrive at the club. It seems to be no coincidence that the Portuguese midfielder has been linking well with his attacking teammates.
Paul Pogba looks more of a player that he had done at the club since he returned in the summer of 2016, seeming much happier playing a deeper midfield role, happy to see Fernandes play further ahead, looking to offload a pass before moving forward. Gary Neville was complimentary of United’s recent 3-0 victory over Brighton, declaring:
“Well that was [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Wayne] Rooney and Nani. Arsenal, back in the late 2000s. The speed of that counter-attack!”