Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has revealed that he studied teammate Bruno Fernandes ahead of their first match playing together for the club. Fernandes signed for United from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the January transfer window and has been a revelation for the club ever since he arrived. The Frenchman, who has been out with ankle injuries for much of the season seemingly wanted to get ahead of the game and adapt for his partnership with the Portuguese midfielder.
Fernandes cost United £47 million in January and could see his price eventually rise to £65 million or more with add-ons being paid to his former club based on his achievements and performances for his new club – which might be a certainty rather than a possibility based on what he has done in the 17 appearances he has made for the club, scoring eight goals and assisting a further eight – also have involvement in Marcus Rashford’s opening goal against Crystal Palace on Thursday.
When Fernandes arrived at the Old Trafford club, speculation was rife regarding Pogba’s future at the club with Real Madrid interested and also Juventus wanting to take him back to his former club – four years after he left. Injured at the time, suffering a second ankle injury, which required surgery and looked to keep him out for the season, Pogba started to watch videos of Fernandes’ performances, which kind of gives the suggestion that the Frenchman wanted to stay at United, in my opinion at least.
However, the coronavirus pandemic happened which suspended the Premier League season – and the rest of world football, in mid-March, giving the Frenchman time to recover, which he did during the lockdown, building up his fitness before returning to training with his teammates at the Aon training complex in Carrington, getting ready for the start of the season. It meant that Pogba and Fernandes’ partnership would actually be a thing – it’s great that Pogba did his homework on him.
Pogba returned, albeit from the bench in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, winning the penalty that put United back into the game, playing competitively with Fernandes for the first time. Since then, the Frenchman has played in every match, starting six times and coming off the bench twice. It is fair to say the two players have hit it off and despite stumbling against both Southampton and Crystal Palace, despite scoring twice in each game, United have done well. Speaking to BT Sport before Thursday’s victory over Palace and reported by The Sun, Pogba said:
“When Bruno [Fernandes] arrived, I got that I need to understand him straight away.
“I didn’t want one month to adapt to his game so I watched him, watched his position, how he used the ball, what he’s good at so when I came back we could do well together.
“Straight away when I get to him [Bruno], I know ‘I can make this run’, ‘I know I have to pass him the ball there because he is dangerous there’.
“I try to analyse how he plays with the team, how to improve my positioning and stuff like that.”
Pogba is clearly enjoying things at United now that Fernandes has arrived. He should have been signed last summer when the speculation linking the Portuguese midfielder to the club was rife. However, that did not happen. Pogba is back in the thick of things, playing for the team he called his destiny when he returned to the Old Trafford club in the summer of 2016, clearly loving the new look United side, with creativity seemingly all over the pitch when in the past it might have been left to him, which could give understanding as to why he was not happy?
Last month, after a few weeks of action in the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup, Pogba revealed that he was happy to be back in action playing alongside Fernandes, who is a spectacular player for the club after what he has shown to be his ability so far this season. His arrival has also brought out the best of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, with the trio helping themselves to 60 goals in all competitions this season – which is a great result for United. As reported by The Sun, Pogba was quoted as saying:
“From behind I just enjoy it. I’m enjoying just watching Bruno, Rashford, Martial and Mason, who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals.”
Previously, a record had been set at United with both Robin van Persie, who signed from Arsenal in the summer of 2012 – helping United to their 20th league title, and Eric Cantona, who signed from Leeds United in 1992 have seen their records overtaken by Fernandes, who has yet to taste defeat for United since his arrival. United are now on a 19-match unbeaten run this season, last losing to Burnley on the 22 January 2020; a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford. In his 11 Premier League appearances (before the Palace victory), United have won seven times, drawing four times with Fernandes scoring seven goals and seven assists.
Fernandes has a total of 14 goal involvements in his 12 league appearances, which beats Van Persie’s 12 goal involvements (eight goals, four assists) in 11 league matches, which shows how well United did by signing the player, albeit six months after they should have signed him. Cantona had 11 goal involvements in his first 11 matches for United (five goals, six assists) back in the 1992/93 season. Dwight Yorke is there too, one of the heroes of the treble winning season, with 11 goal involvements (seven goals, four assists) in his first 11 league appearances. Fernandes could well go onto becoming a legend of the club, possibly with Pogba, who is definitely happy to see a player of his calibre at the Theatre of Dreams, which could see him sign a new contract, maybe?
Written by John Walker