Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has stated that Bruno Fernandes’ arrival at the Theatre of Dreams during the January transfer window was the crucial turning point of the club this season. The Portuguese midfielder has played 19 times for United since he arrived, scoring ten goals and eight assists. He has experienced defeat just once; in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley last weekend. United have been a different animal since Fernandes arrived.
United beat Maguire’s former club Leicester City 2-0 at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon which confirmed their third place finish in the Premier League and therefore a place in the UEFA Champions League next season, after a season out of the competition. United scored in the 71st minute of the match after Anthony Martial was fouled in the box with Fernandes scoring the penalty. The victory was secured by Jesse Lingard in the dying seconds of the match, scoring the second goal. Speaking about Fernandes’ arrival being United’s turning point, Maguire, reported by The Mirror, said:
“Bringing Bruno [Fernandes] in, in January made a big difference. We’ve worked tirelessly hard on the training ground but we dropped so many points where we shouldn’t have dropped points.”
United have problems in defence, which was a problem area last season after the club conceded 54 goals in the Premier League alone. Maruire’s £80 million arrival from Leicester last summer has gone in the right direction to solve some problems but more work will be required. However, if you look at the statistics, going from conceding 54 goals in the 2018/19 season to conceding just 36 in the 2019/20 season must be seen as an improvement, surely? Maguire, talking about defending, said:
“We’ve improved on set piece defending a lot, aside from the late goal at Southampton.
“We’ve achieved what we set out to at the start of the season, finish third in the Premier League, but that’s always the least this club should be aiming for.”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was tasked to guide the club to Champions League football next season, which during the coronavirus pandemic looked like an impossibility, from their league position. They have clawed back the 14 point lead Leicester had on them, leapfrogging them by four points to get where they needed to be. That shows signs of the club improving and closing in on their targets. Solskjaer, speaking about how proud he was to see his players achieve what they set out to do, said:
“I’m delighted. We’ve achieved a Champions League spot, we’ve come from way, way behind teams and gone past them.
“We’ve shown that we’ve got the consistency, the right mentality. We’re building a group and a performance culture here that we can be proud of.”
Written by John Walker