Five key positives Manchester United can take from the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era

Saturday’s awful 4-1 loss to Watford sealed the fate of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the club announcing the managers departure early on Sunday morning. 

For most fans, this announcement was met with conflicting emotions; on the one hand Manchester United have been in obvious free-fall since the loss to Young Boys in the Champions League back in September and it was obvious that the managers tactics had taken the team as far as they could. 

On the other hand, Solskjaer is a legend of the club and has carried himself with class even when the results were bad on the pitch, he has been a model professional and has never hidden his love for the club. Solskjaer steadied the ship and more so besides, here are five key positives from Solskjaer’s reign that United can build upon in the future.

Clear out of ‘dead wood’

When Solskjaer became permanent manager of United one of the most obvious issues within the club was that it was overloaded with players on huge wages who were either not good enough or did not want to be there. 

During Solskjaer’s reign there was an obvious shift towards being more ruthless and selling players who did not fit the playing style and were not good enough. The sale of Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan was the best example of this, firstly the winger, who was on a reported £560,000 a week, was sent on loan to Milan during the 2019/20 season, then it was announced in August of 2020 that a deal had been reached for the permanent transfer of Sanchez, as reported by Sky Sports.

The ruthlessness was apparent in the way that the deal included Sanchez and the club wavering the final two years of the players contract, saving the club a reported £40 million in wages, with the player receiving a ‘small pay off’ of between £5 million and £7 million, as reported by Sky Sports

During Solskjaer’s reign fans also saw players like Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian leave the club to relatively little fanfare, players who simply were no longer good enough to play for Manchester United. However, in all of these deals the players were treated with obvious respect and there was no media circus fuelled by the manager, the same thing could not be said of United’s previous manager Jose Mourinho. 

The departures of Sanchez, Darmian, Rojo, Chris Smalling and more recently Daniel James not only made room for other players in the squad to get playing time but also took wages off the wage bill to sign other players or give new contracts to players who deserved them. The way that Solskjaer handled this specific job should not be overlooked and it has undoubtedly been a positive for United and will continue to be after he leaves. 

Bruno Fernandes

It is not an over exaggeration to state that the signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon in January of 2020 changed the trajectory of the team. Before his arrival, Manchester United were lacking creativity with the manager relying on Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard for creative output, both of whom were not fulling this duty to a substantial level. 

United desperately needed a technically gifted creative midfielder who could contribute with goals and assists, and with Bruno Fernandes they found just that. 

When the signing was announced Solskjaer stated that his team had been ‘tracking Bruno for many months’ proving that this was a thought out signing and one that Solskjaer had personally pushed for, knowing the impact he would have on the team. 

Fernandes has not let the manager down, since signing for United the midfielder has made 97 appearances, scoring 44 goals and contributing 33 assists. These are freakish attacking numbers, and even they cannot fully portray just how important Fernandes has become to United, perhaps the fact he has won back to back Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards, in his only two seasons at the club, go a bit further in portraying his importance.  

In Fernandes, Solskjaer provided United with a player who will go on to achieve great things at the club, even in the managers absence. In years to come, Manchester United fans will look back and thank Solskjaer for being the man who fought to bring the Portuguese midfielder to the club.

A change in the culture

United fans know that before the appointment of Solskjaer the team was heading on a downwards spiral. Not only were the performances bad, but constant media talk surrounding the club created an extremely toxic atmosphere for the players, staff, and fans alike. 

Mourinho’s managerial style meant he had fallen out with players he felt did not give their all for the club, players such as Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw felt particularly hard done by. 

Solskjaer came in and put his arm around the players, made them excited to play football again and constantly backed them in press conferences and interviews, even when they had put in bad performances. This ingrained a more positive culture into the club, and one that replicated the days of Sir Alex Ferguson who often fiercely protected his players. 

It is certain that this change in atmosphere was part of the reason for United’s stellar form in the early period of Solskjaer’s reign, but it also means that now, even with Solskjaer gone, there is no longer a toxic atmosphere at the club and the team, even with horrendous results and performances recently, appear as together as ever, something that arguably would not have been the case under previous managers.

The evolution of Mason Greenwood

In contrast to Mourinho, Solskjaer consistently promoted youth during his time at the club, promoting players such as Brandon Williams and Dean Henderson to the first team. However, Solskjaer’s handling of young talent Mason Greenwood is something that Manchester United fans will always be grateful to the Norwegian for. 

Solskjaer did not throw Greenwood into the first team, even when it was clear from his numbers in the youth team that he was an immense talent. Instead he adopted a ease in approach giving the youngster minutes as a substitute in the 2018/19 season, with the striker scoring his first senior goal in a win against Astana early in the 2019/20 season, as reported by Sky Sports.

This approach meant that the then 17 year old was not overwhelmed by the pressure and could instead get a feel for the level the would be playing at. 

This approach has worked wonders and Greenwood is now a solidified player in the first team squad, even at the still very young age of 20. Under Solskjaer the Academy graduate made 119 appearances for the club, scoring 33 and assisting 11, these numbers are fantastic for a player still so young and playing in a team with expectations as high as United’s. 

Greenwood is a part of the legacy Solskjaer leaves behind, without him, who knows how the development of the youngster would have been handled. It is very likely that without his management fans would not be witnessing the great player we see today, it was Solskjaer who gave him his chance.

He leaves behind a better squad than the one he inherited 

Finally, the signings he made as a manager will leave a lasting positive impact on the team, with some of United’s best signings since Ferguson’s retirement occurring under the Norwegian. 

Solskjaer signed a mix of experienced players who can fit in straight away and make an impact such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane as well as young, exciting players who could go on to be some of the best in the world in their positions if handled correctly, including Amad Diallo and Jadon Sancho. 

There is no doubt that the squad of players Solskjaer leaves behind have the ability to win trophies, if the right manager comes in, the same could not be said of the team Solskjaer inherited in 2018. In three years, the additions Solskjaer has made to the squad, on paper, make United genuine title challengers, it is now down to whoever is next to take this squad to the next level, one Solskjaer unfortunately could not reach. 

While Solskjaer’s reign ends in misery, the manager did all he could to get the club back to where it belongs, he promoted youth, believed in his players, and brought in world class talent to take the team to the next level. 

He will always be a legend for his days as a player, and now, he will be fondly remembered as the man who steadied the ship and made Manchester United fans dream again. The group of players he leaves behind can bring trophies back to United, that is a legacy to be proud of. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

October Review: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, David De Gea and Marcus Rashford for POTM?

Manchester United played five matches in October and it was not a great month for the club or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United started the month with a 1-1 draw with Everton at Old Trafford, which then made way for an international break. After that, United lost 4-2 to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, ending their unbeaten away run in the Premier League. Solskjaer’s side returned to winning ways beating Atalanta 3-2 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League, coming from 2-0 down. A 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League followed, adding pressure to Solskjaer before his side beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0.

October Statistics: A month of pressure for Solskjaer which ended more positively than it begun.

Five matches played; two wins one draw and two defeats. Four Premier League points won out of 12, and three points won in the UEFA Champions League, which put United at the summit of the group table and in with a good chance of getting out of the group. A total of nine goals were scored for United in October; Marcus Rashford scored three goals, Cristiano Ronaldo scored two and Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial scored one each. Bruno Fernandes got five assists whilst Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Ronaldo and Luke Shaw all got one assist each.

2 October – Manchester United 1-1 Everton – Premier League

Goals: Anthony Martial 43′; Andros Townsend 65′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 43′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 65′

Manchester United drew 1-1 with Everton in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial opened the scoring in the 43rd minute of the match, scoring his first goal for the club this season, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United should have perhaps scored more than one goal in the first half, seeking more in the second half. Andros Townsend equalised for the Toffees, after Fred lost the ball with Abdoulaye Doucoure equalising before Yerry Mina scored again five minutes from time, which was ruled offside. United needed to win this match and will go into the international break frustrated.

16 October – Leicester City 4-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Youri Tielemans 31′, Çaglar Söyüncü 78′, Jamie Vardy 83′, Patson Daka 90+1′; Mason Greenwood 19′, Marcus Rashford 82′

Assists: Kelechi Iheanacho 31′, Ayoze Pérez 78′, 83′, You Tielemans 90+1′; Bruno Fernandes 19′, Victor Lindelof 82′

Manchester United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. It was another big defeat for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the stadium, losing last season in the FA Cup. United unbeaten away run was now over. Mason Greenwood opened the scoring in the 19th minute of the match but Youri Tielemans equalised in the 31st minute. Leicester then found a second goal, scored by Çaglar Söyüncü in the 78th minute before Marcus Rashford levelled in the 82nd minute for United. Jamie Vardy put Leicester ahead again a minute later before Patson Daka completed the rout in the first minute of added time.

20 October – Manchester United 3-2 Atalanta – UEFA Champions League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 53′, Harry Maguire 75′, Cristiano Ronaldo 81′; Mario Pašalić 15′, Merit Demiral 29′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 53′, 75′, Luke Shaw 81′; Davide Zappacosta 15′, Teun Koopmeiners 29′

Manchester United beat Atalanta 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League. At half time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were 2-0 down after Mario Pašalić and Merih Demiral scored in the first half. United seemed dejected, devoid of confidence, inspiration and motivation. Something must have been said during the break as eight minutes in, Marcus Rashford got a goal back with Harry Maguire equalising in the 75th minute and none other than Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner in the 81st minute of the match. It was a poor first half, the second half was better but winning this match from a losing position means the world.

24 October – Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool – Premier League

Goals: Naby Keita 5′, Diogo Jota 13′, Mohamed Salah 38′, 45+5′, 50′

Assists: Mohamed Salah 5′, Trent Alexander-Arnold 13′, Naby Keita 38′, Diogo Jota 45+5′, Jordan Henderson 50′

Manchester United were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were toothless, lacked any kind of ability to play this game and will be under so much pressure, which will either make or break them. Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in the game, scoring in the 38th minute, five minutes into added time and one against five minutes into the second half. Naby Keita opened the scoring and was stretched off after Paul Pogba was sent off the the foul. Diogo Jota scored the other goal in the game that saw Liverpool run riot at the Theatre of Dreams.

30 October – Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo 39′, Edinson Cavani 64′, Marcus Rashford 86′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 39′, Cristiano Ronaldo 64′, Nemanja Matic 86’

Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in the Premier League. It was a good comeback for United after their humiliation against Liverpool last week. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 39th minute of the match, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United doubled their lead through Edinson Cavani in the 64th minute of the match, assisted by Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford scored the third goal of the match in the 86th minute, assisted by Nemanja Matic. United face Atalanta on Tuesday evening, then Manchester City in the first Manchester derby of the season next weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo – five appearances, 374 minutes played, two goals, one assist and two MOTM awards.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the Manchester United Player of the Month for September and should probably win this one, considering his goal against Atalanta won the game and he scored and assisted against Spurs. He was awarded two Man of the Match awards by the club for his performances against Atalanta and Spurs and his goal against Spurs will be a Goal of the Month contender, for the angle which he found the back of the net. Ronaldo has been a breath of fresh air since returning to the club, despite the poor team performances that followed the last international break. United with Ronaldo is a much better team but needs to be unbeatable.

Bruno Fernandes – five appearances, 408 minutes played, five assists and one MOTM award.

Bruno Fernandes has performed this month, despite United’s poor results. The Portuguese magnifico got himself five assists in the month, matching the seven assists held by Paul Pogba this season. Fernandes has four goals too, but non of those were scored in October. The midfielder was awarded the Man of the Match in the 1-1 draw with Everton, which was a poor result for United and one which continued throughout October, ending with a win. He assisted against Everton, Leicester, twice against Atalanta and once against Spurs. There are times when his form has tailed off but he always strives for high level performances at the club.

David De Gea – five appearances, 450 minutes played, one clean sheet – a goalkeeper in form.

The Spanish goalkeeper has performed exceptionally well during October, raising his game and showing many glimpses of the player he was before last season, when his form was questionable. He ended the month with his second clean sheet this season, which is no really achievement, but will be a starting point from a period where United were conceding goals at the fault of the defence rather than the goalkeeper. De Gea made any saves, helping to keep United in matches, especially the 3-2 victory over Atalanta in the Champions League. The past month will have made him more determined to succeed at United.

Marcus Rashford: four appearances, two from the bench, 172 minutes played, three goals.

Marcus Rashford only made he return from shoulder surgery against Leicester City, making four appearances in October, two of those from the bench. The three goals that he scored were needed for United, even the one against Leicester which levelled the score to 2-2 but United capitulated a minute later, then again in added time. Rashford also scored against Atalanta and Spurs – two matches which were wins and much needed at that. Having Rashford fit this season will be great for United and it’s clear he wants to achieve things at the club and will do all that he can to get United heading into the right direction.

Who is your Player of the Month for October 2021?

Who is your Manchester United Player of the Month for October 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in November…

United will play five matches in November. It will be another busy month for United with two matches to be played before the final international break of 2021; Atalanta in the Champions League and Manchester City in the Premier League. Two weeks later, United will face Watford away in the league before the penultimate Champions League match away to Villarreal. The final match of the month will be away at Chelsea. United were supposed to face Arsenal at the end of November, but that match was rescheduled because it will be shown on television. United will have a busy December with eight matches being played. Here are November’s matches;

2 November – Atalanta, Stadio di Bergamo – UEFA Champions League

6 November – Manchester City, Old Trafford – Premier League

20 November – Watford, Vicarage Road – Premier League

23 November – Villarreal, Estadio de la Cerámica – UEFA Champions League

28 November – Chelsea, Stamford Bridge – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Bruno Fernandes: The man to take Manchester United back to the top?

Bruno Fernandes is a 26-year-old Portuguese midfielder formally of Sporting Lisbon who plays as the ‘10’ or attacking midfielder for Manchester United. He joined United in January of 2020 for a fee of £47 million, although due to addons it could rise to £67.6 million. At the time of Fernandes’ signing, United were in a dire situation having just lost to Burnley 2-0 at home.

United were six points adrift off top four and fourteen points behind Leicester in third. Furthermore, to make matters worse, United were only four points above Newcastle in 14th place. Therefore, United were in a dreadful position, the team looked vulnerable every game, the fans had lost faith and the owners looked close to following suit. But the signing of Fernandes in January changed everything…

United were in major need of some creativity, Andreas Pereira was not living up-to expectations, failing to find pockets of space and create chances for the forwards. United were very stale, predictable and the once fortress of Old Trafford was becoming a lottery, any result could happen. Furthermore, the whole dynamic with the team was low, the squad needed fresh impetus, someone new around the training ground, someone to spark life into the team, to turn the season around.

When Fernandes joined, he had expectations due to the large fee of £47 million, but the results he brought far exceeded this. His first match saw him win man of the match against Wolves at home in a disappointing 0-0 draw. After this, his ability was abundantly clear; he had leadership qualities to bring the best out of others,  his eye for a pass mixed with the incredible ability to weight each pass perfectly into the path of his teammates, was a simple sounding yet highly effective feature which opened up opposition defences.

In games which United struggled to break teams down, Fernandes had the ability to find those tiny gaps, and even singlehandedly win games for United. He also has great long-distance shooting ability, as seen with his long-range effort past England number one Jordan Pickford, which then leaves defenders in two minds whether to press him to stop the longshot, but leaving inevitable spaces behind them, and with his vision and accuracy he could find, or stand off him making sure the defence is compact and tight, with no space to slip any forwards in, but leaving them exposed to a potential deadly longshot.

As the last half of the season progressed, United with Fernandes started rising up the table, picking up big results, in particular a 2-0 derby day win against Manchester City, in which Fernandes created a lovely assist with a perfectly dinked ball into Martial who slotted it home to give United a 1-0 lead before Scott McTominay cemented United’s win with a sublime longshot into an open net with Ederson stranded. This was the last time Fernandes and the team played in front of 75,000 at Old Trafford again.

But with the relaxing of guidelines for the upcoming season, Fernandes will be playing with 75,000 fans shouting his name which could take his game to the next level. Against all odds, Fernandes managed to take United into the top four finishing third with the final day win against Leicester City. Unfortunately, in the Europa league, United fell to the eventual winners Sevilla in an action-packed game in which United failed to take their chances and were punished. United ended the season with Champions League football but no trophies; so, was it really a success? 

Onto his second season, Fernandes was the established creator in the team, with a lot of United’s creativity solely reliant on him. He managed 18 goals and 12 assists in 37 games in the league, and five goals in the Europa League. Throughout the season, Fernandes scored 28 goals which surpassed Frank Lampard’s record with 27 as well as racking up 17 assists. Individually, Fernandes had a great season peaking in the first half and potential fatigue due to United’s reliance on him hindering him in the second half.

However, at a club like United success is defined by trophies and United fell out of the Champions League after a disappointing defeat to RB Leipzig which sent them down to the Europa League. United then looked favourites to win it, but due to a valiant stand from Villarreal saw United lose on penalties in the final.

In the FA Cup, United bowed out to Leicester City in a disappointing defeat but did finish second in the league which was progress from third the year before, and the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign that United had managed to secure back-to-back Champions League football. Therefore, as a result, I feel Fernandes himself has had a very successful season, but the lack of trophies means it’s not a successful season overall, as success at Manchester United is only met through trophies and United failed to achieve this. 

One cause of dispute with Fernandes is his overall impact on games, especially against the so called ‘Big Six.’ He has undoubted ability to get goals and assists but some doubt his overall impact as he can be susceptible to trying the ‘miracle ball’ until it works. Fernandes has struggled in the big games in the league this season failing to get many goal contributions against these teams. However, this maybe due to the approach United have taken against the bigger clubs, as rather than trying to dictate and control the tempo they have sat off and tried using a counter attacking approach.

This contrast Fernandes’ style as he likes to have ball to feet looking to find the gaps, but with counter attacking the game can pass him by or he can attempt the ‘miracle ball’ and give possession away in desperation due to the lack of ball as they are sitting back. For all the stick Fernandes gets about his involvement in the big games, I feel he is subject to unnecessary criticism from rival fans as they envy him as a player and would love to have someone like him in their team.

This means that he is subject to any criticism possible which overlooks his actual performances. He has played well in big games but his flattering statistics almost hinder the public outlook of him as if he doesn’t get a goal contribution then his performance is judged as bad and so the belief Fernandes doesn’t turn up in big games is a myth. However, he’s not perfect, and I feel to take his game further Fernandes should sometimes look to play the simpler pass to retain possession rather then playing the ‘miracle ball’ as it can give away unnecessary possession. 

Overall, I feel Fernandes has had a major impact on this Manchester United team instilling belief in the players and providing that creative spark that has been lacking at United for years. He’s brought United back-to-back Champions League football, with unbelievable goal contributions; but to take his impact further and assure his spell at United is successful, I feel he must lead United to silverware, and if he could bring back a Premier League title or the Champions League trophy, he could cement himself as a United great.

Written by Ethan Bents

February Review: Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James in the plaudits for their performances in February – Who do you choose?

Manchester United played eight matches in February which completed three busy months with saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer side play 26 matches in the three-month period. March will be an easier month with the first international break of 2021 coming at the end of the month with many of the cup competitions advancing in the latter knockout stages with the best club advancing. United won four times in February; Southampton 9-0, West Ham United 1-0, Real Sociedad 4-0 and Newcastle United 3-1. Solskjaer side drew four times also; Everton 3-3, West Bromwich Albion 1-1, Real Sociedad 0-0 and Chelsea 0-0. It was an unbeaten month for United but also a month which saw Manchester City rise to the summit of the Premier League.

February Statistics:

Eight matches played; four wins and four draws. Nine Premier League points won, a place in the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup and the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League. 21 goals scored, five goals conceded and five clean sheets. Out of the 21 goals scored by United in February, Bruno Fernandes scored six, also getting three assists, Marcus Rashford got three goals and two assists, Daniel James got three goals and one assist, Scott McTominay scored three goals, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani got two goals each and Aaron Wan-Bissaka scored one goal and one assist and there was one own goal. Luke Shaw got four assists with Mason Greenwood, Fred, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire all getting one assist each.

2 February – Manchester United 9-0 Southampton – Premier League

Goals: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 18′, Marcus Rashford 25′, Jan Bednarek 34′ o/g, Edinson Cavani 39′, Anthony Martial 69’, 90′, Scott McTominay 71’, Bruno Fernandes 87′ penalty, Daniel James 90+3′

Assists: Luke Shaw 18′, 39′, Mason Greenwood 25′, Bruno Fernandes 69′, 90+3′

Manchester United destroyed Southampton 9-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Alexandre Jankewitz was sent off for the challenge on Scott McTominay in the second minute of the match, putting the Saints down to the men. United opened the scoring through Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the 18th minute, doubling their lead through Marcus Rashford in the 25th. Jan Bednarek scored an own goal in the 34th before Edinson Cavani scored a fourth in the 39th. In the second half, United scored a fifth through Anthony Martial in the 69th before McTominay scored in the 71st. Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty in the 87th with Martial completing his brace in the 90th before Daniel James struck in added time.

6 February – Manchester United 3-3 Everton – Premier League

Goals: Edinson Cavani 24′, Bruno Fernandes 45′, Scott McTominay 70′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 49’, James Rodriguez 52’, Dominic Calvert-Lewin 90+5

Assists: Marcus Rashford 24′, Aaron Wan-Bissaka 45’, Luke Shaw 70′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 52’, Michael Keane 90+5

Manchester United drew 3-3 with Everton at Old Trafford in the Premier League. It was a game of two halves for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Edinson Cavani put United ahead in the 24th minute of the match with Bruno Fernandes doubling the lead with a sublime goal in the 45th minute. Everton got back into the game four minutes into the second half with Abdoulaye Doucoure getting a goal but three minutes later James Rodriguez had levelled United’s early lead. Scott McTominay scored what seemed to be a winner for United in the 70th minute of the match but in the last minute of added time, Dominic Calvert-Lewin levelled the score for Everton with David De Gea making two costly errors; Doucoure’s goal and Calvert-Lewin’s goal.

9 February – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Scott McTominay 97′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 97′

Manchester United beat West Ham United 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday evening. It took extra time for United to find the after the Hammers seemingly played for a point in a game that would never see it happen. To play this defensive in a cup match was poor. Victor Lindelof had the best chance of normal time seeing Lukasz Fabianski save his effort in the first half. Mason Greenwood played well and Marcus Rashford missed an easy effort once again, seemingly needing to make things simple again. Scott McTominay opened the scoring seven minutes into the first half of extra time. United will find out who they face in the quarter-final draw which will take place on Thursday evening.

14 February – West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Mbaye Diagne 2′; Bruno Fernandes 44′

Assists: Conor Gallagher 2′; Luke Shaw 44′

Manchester United drew 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in the Premier League. It was a poor start by United as Victor Lindelof seemed t be fouled by Mbaye Diagne, who then beat David De Gea in just over 80 seconds of the match being played. United seemed to lack urgency for a period and failed to break into the match. In the 44th minute though, Bruno Fernandes found the equaliser to get United back into the game but despite Manny attempts to, did not find a winning goal. The Baggies almost scored two more times with Diagne on the break and De Gea managing to get most of his effort on the ball to change its direction. It will be seen as a poor result for United, but a worse one for the Baggies who are 12 points adrift of safety.

18 February – Real Sociedad 0-4 Manchester United – UEFA Europa League

Goals: Bruno Fernandes 27′, 57′, Marcus Rashford 65′, Daniel James 90′

Assists: Daniel James 57′, Fred 65′, Eric Bailly 90′

Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 4-0 in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg at the Juventus Stadium in Turin ons Thursday evening. United opened the scoring through Bruno Fernandes in the 27th minute of the match with the Portuguese midfielder scoring his second goal of the match in the 57th minute. Marcus Rashford scored United’s third goal in the 65th minute of the match with Daniel James finding the back of the net minutes later, but he was offside. The Welshman did get another chance, getting the fourth goal of the match in the 90th minute to complete the scoring for United, giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side a great chance to make it to the round of 16 stage of the competition.

21 February – Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle United – Premier League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 30′, Daniel James 57′, Bruno Fernandes 75′ penalty; Allan Saint-Maximin 36′

Assists: Harry Maguire 30′, Bruno Fernandes 57′

Manchester United beat Newcastle United 3-1 in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side 1-0 up in the 30th minute of the match but the lead was short-lived as Allan Saint-Maximin found the equaliser for the Magpies just six minutes later. In the second half, United found themselves needing to do more to get back in front and that came in the 57th minute after Bruno Fernandes fed the ball to Daniel James, who scored his second goal of the week and his fifth goal of the season. Fernandes sealed the victory for United in the 75th minute after Rashford was fouled in the box, scoring the penalty to secure all three points with a 3-1 victory. Real Sociedad up next for United to confirm a last 16 place in the Europa League.

25 February – Manchester United 0-0 Real Sociedad – UEFA Europa League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg. United’s four goals in the first leg saw them through to the round of 16 in the competition. Bruno Fernandes almost scored in the first half and Axel Tuanzebe found the back of the net with a thundering header in the 63rd minute of the match but because of a Victor Lindelof foul, VAR and the referee ruled out the goal, which was a shame for the defender. Amad Diallo made his home debut with Shola Shoretire becoming the youngest United player to feature in European competition, which will be something for him to be proud of. United will find out their fate in the competition on Friday as the round of 16 draw is made.

28 February – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. Both teams matched each other evenly with United the team to be disappointed from the match which now sees Manchester City 12 points clear at the top of the table with United a point better off than third placed Leicester City, who lost to Arsenal earlier in the day. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be happy with the point but not with the fact that they failed to score, which is starting to become a worry at this stage of the season. United will face Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening before the Manchester derby at the Etihad next Sunday, which will see Pep Guardiola rubbing his hands with joy based on United’s current goalscoring form.

Luke Shaw – six appearances, 435 minutes, four assists

Luke Shaw had an impressive month for United during February. Out of the eight matches United played, Shaw played six times, spending 435 minutes on the pitch. He got himself four assist throughout the month with two against Southampton in the 9-0 thrashing, one against Everton in the 3-3 draw and one against West Bromwich Albion in the 1-1 draw. Shaw has made the left-back position his own this season and he has risen in stature, which is great to see. Shaw was impressive in many of the matches he played and more recently against Chelsea, he was one of the standout performers, despite United failing to score a single goal. March is going to be a much more difficult month and hopefully Shaw continue his February form into the new month.

Bruno Fernandes – eight appearances, 625 minutes, six goals, three assists and three MOTM awards.

A month without Bruno Fernandes being mentioned here will be a bad month for United. The Portuguese magnifico made eight appearances throughout February, playing 625 minutes on the pitch for the Red Devils. He scored six goals and three assists (nine goal contributions) which is a great achievement from the midfielder. Fernandes started with a goal and an assist against Southampton, scoring his second goal of the month against Everton. He scored his third goal against West Bromwich Albion, getting numbers four and five against Real Sociedad. Goal number six and assist number three both came against Newcastle United. He won three Man of the Match awards for performances against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Real Sociedad.

Daniel James – five appearances, 357 minutes, three goals, one assist and one MOTM award.

Daniel James really started to prove himself during February after getting himself back on the pitch for United. He made five appearances in the eight matches United played, scoring three goals and one assist throughout the month. The Welshman’s first goal came against Southampton in added time. He then got a goal and an assist against Real Sociedad in Turin, which was good performance from him. His third goal came against Newcastle United, scoring in two successive matches, which helped grow his confidence. James won the Man of the Match award for his performance against Newcastle, which will help him on his way at the club. He performed well in the second leg against Real Sociedad and against Chelsea, two matches in which United failed to score.

Notable Mentions: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford

Aaron Wan-Bissaka made a total of eight appearances in March, playing 675 minutes of football, which was good to see. He scored one goal and one assist, the goal coming against Southampton and the assist against Everton. The right-back won the Man of the Match award for his performance against Southampton. Scott McTominay also played well in February, making six appearances and playing 435 minutes of football. He scored three goals; Southampton, Everton and West Ham United, winning the Man of the Match award in that match. Marcus Rashford played eight times, spending 652 minutes on the pitch. He scored three goals; Southampton, Real Sociedad and Newcastle United and two assists; Everton and West Ham United.

Who is your Player of the Month for February 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in March…

United will play six matches in March which will give them a bit of a break after the busy months of December, January and February, which saw United play a total of 26 matches. United start the month away in the Premier League as they take on Crystal Palace and then the second Manchester derby of the league season at the Etihad. United’s only home match of the month comes against AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg with another trip to London on the cards with a. visit to West Ham United three days later. United then travel to the San Siro to face AC Milan in the second leg match of the round of 16 stage in the Europa League before ending the month at the King Power Stadium facing Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup.

3 March – Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park – Premier League

7 March – Manchester City, Etihad Stadium – Premier League

11 March – AC Milan, Old Trafford – UEFA Europa League

14 March – West Ham United, London Stadium – Premier League

18 March – AC Milan, San Siro – UEFA Europa League

21 March – Leicester City, King Power Stadium – Emirates FA Cup

Written by John Walker

November Review: Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Fred in the plaudits for November

Manchester United played six times in November – a month which started with two defeats in the Premier League (Arsenal) and the UEFA Champions League (Istanbul Basaksehir) but then started to head in the right direction with victories over Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Istanbul Basaksehir and an added time victory over Southampton. United started the month tottering above the relegation zone in the Premier League and leading their group in the Champions League, which is still the case despite the defeat to the Turkish club. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have ended the month by rising to 14th place in the Premier League with December will be tricky.

November Statistics:

Six matches played; four wins, no draws and two defeats. Nine Premier League points won and three Champions League points won. 12 goals scored, seven goals conceded – one clean sheet. United started the month inn 15th place in the Premier League, finishing in eighth place with United having a game in hand of all of the clubs above them, which if played now could see them rise to fifth place (as United’s goal difference is at zero and Leicester City – in fourth place – having a +6 goal difference). Solskjaer will be seeking for United to start December in the same form they are in now – winning, rather than starting in the same was as September and October.

1/11 – Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal – Premier League

After United ended October on a high with a 5-0 victory over RB Leipzig in the Champions League, it was though that the club had turned a corner and were looking to start November in style. However, that was not the case in the poor match against Arsenal, who are not one of the toughest teams to beat in the Premier League this season. A 69th minute penalty scored by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a disaster for United, and Paul Pogba who gave away the spot kick. It was not a great result for United, who had eight shots with two of those on target. It was a match that United should have won though, which will be a regret for the month.

4/11 – Istanbul Basaksehir 2-1 Manchester United – Champions League

This was a match that United were hoping to hit back in but they got hit instead. The club has not fared well in Istanbul and that hoodoo continued as they faced Istanbul Basaksehir for the first time in European competition. Rafael da Silva would face United for the first time, which was good for him to face the club he loves. United were hit twice in the 12th and 40th minute with all players deep in the opposition half and the Turkish side running through with the ball and putting their shots past Dean Henderson, who made his Champions League debut. There was a late consolation goal from Anthony Martial though.

7/11 – Everton 1-3 Manchester United – Premier League

This was the third match of the month and the last before a two-week international break so it was imperative that United got a good result. Everton had been in great form this season and were top of the league for much of the first month of the season but ahead of this match, their form was not the greatest. In the 19th minute of the match, Bernard scored the opening goal, which looked dire for United. However, a seven minute brace by Bruno Fernandes followed by an added time goal for Edinson Cavani secured all three points for United, which put them in a better position moving forward with a lot more work to be done.

21/11 – Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion – Premier League

After the international break, United were once again playing at Old Trafford, a stadium they they had not won a match in the Premier League this season. The Baggies were seemingly struggling in the league and needed to record their first victory of the season, taking United’s poor home record into account. That was not what happened though after United won a penalty in the 56th minute of the match after a dire first half. Bruno Fernandes scored the spot kick and it was the only goal of the match, which was a shame for United as they were trying to get more goals scored. A win is a win though and the first home win in the league was important.

24/11 – Manchester United 4-1 Istanbul Basaksehir – Champions League

United were back in the Champions League after two wins against Everton and West Bromwich Albion after the international break, facing the Turkish champions who beat United in the competition three weeks prior to this match. United seemed determined to get a result to keep them at the top of their group with two matches left to play. Bruno Fernandes struck with a sublime finish in the seventh minute, doubling the lead 12 minutes later. United won a penalty in the 35th minute with Fernandes on a hat-trick but Marcus Rashford took the spot kick with United leading 3-0 at half time. Daniel James scored in injury time after the Turks scored late in the half.

29/11 – Southampton 2-3 Manchester United – Premier League

Southampton have been a team in good form this season and were not going to be an easy task for United, which has shown after conceding twice in the opening 33 minutes of the match and David De Gea getting a knock, which saw him substituted during the half time break. United got themselves back into the match with Bruno Fernandes scoring in the 60th minute which made it game on. Edinson Cavani, also a half time substitute, scored his second goal of the season in the 74th minute of the match, before scoring the winning goal in added time, scoring both goals from headers. I guess people should not be judging a player based on their age anymore.

Bruno Fernandes – six appearances (six starts), 494 minutes, six goals, two assists and three Man of the Match awards.

Bruno Fernandes has been an important player for United and he has not even been at the club for a year yet, arriving in January 2020 and making bis debut in February. This season he has scored ten goals and assisted a further six with six goals and two assists scored in November. Fernandes scored his first goals against Everton, also scoring against the Baggies and Southampton with another brace against Istanbul Basaksehir. When he is playing, despite having poor spells against the Saints, he is determined to do the best he can to continue winning. United have done well with his acquisition and will continue to do well as long as he plays for the club.

Edinson Cavani – six appearances (one start), 214 minutes, three goals, one assist and one Man of the Match award.

Edinson Cavani has been a great signing for United, even with the criticism from United supporters and ABUs because of his age. That needs to be put to bed now as the comments are attention seeking at best. They should have learned with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they didn’t. Cavani has played a small role at the club this month, in terms of minutes played but with goals and an assist, he has been an important player. He scored his first goal in added time against Everton with United 2-1 up and Everton pushing to equalise. He then scored a brace against Southampton, putting United level then winning the match in a game which United struggled at times.

Fred – five appearances (five starts), 415 minutes – a player that has earned his stripes at United?

Fred has grown from last month when he was besoming a big game player for the club. He’s not lauded by many and some still seem to criticise him because he is not a big name and came for a big price. He does not score many goals nor does he try and score them but in terms of what he offers for the club, his work rate, passion and ability to man-mark are his best attributes. It does not always work, which will be the same for almost every player in the game but he should be proud of how he has responded since his day at the club were almost ended by Jose Mourinho, who was sacked many months later. If he continues his form, he will keep playing regularly.

Notable Mentions: David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles.

David De Gea made five starts in November, played 405 minutes and kept one clean sheet. Despite the loss against Arsenal, he did not lose any other matches during the month with Dean Henderson playing in the 2-1 defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir. It was unfortunate that he received an injury against Southampton and was substituted. Luke Shaw assisted twice in November with his assists coming against the Turkish side (in the defeat) and against Everton, which also saw him coming off injured. Alex Telles is another player who is heading in the right direction, playing three times, all starts and having 264 minutes on the pitch playing some good football.

Who is your Player of the Month for November 2020?

A look at what lies ahead in December…

United will play nine matches in December and it is going to be a tough month with the last five matches of the month played over a 12-day period. United will complete their Champions League group stage in December, currently topping their group and needing good results against PSG and Leipzig. United will also play six Premier League matches, seeking to gain some group in the league this season, after a poor start to the season. Solskjaer’s side do still have that game in hand they missed from the start of the season, which might close the gaps a little more. The club will also return to the Carabao Cup against Everton in the quarter-final stage.

2/12 – Paris Saint-Germain, Old Trafford – Champions League

5/12 – West Ham United, London Stadium – Premier League

8/12 – RB Leipzig, Red Bull Arena – Champions League

12/12 – Manchester City, Old Trafford – Premier League

17/12 – Sheffield United, Bramall Lane – Premier League

20/12 – Leeds United, Old Trafford – Premier League

23/12 – Everton, Goodison Park – Carabao Cup

26/12 – Leicester City, King Power Stadium – Premier League

29/12 – Wolverhampton Wanderers, Old Trafford – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Player Profile: Bruno Fernandes – the midfielder that has solved United’s creative issues in less than a year; a Portuguese magnifico

Manchester United signed Bruno Fernandes on Thursday 30 January 2020 after a lot of speculation which started the previous summer and resulted in a lot of disappointment from the clubs supporters. Since the Portuguese midfielder arrived at the Theatre of Dreams, you could sense that his arrival was the start of things to come. Since his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers Fernandes has played 22 times, scoring 12 goals and eight assists. Fernandes, now 26, has come into a United squad which was lacking leadership and was in dire need of such a thing. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the middle of a club rebuild which seems to have been something that has carried on since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season – this time though, things were starting to fall in the right places.

Fernandes is the type of midfielder that United needed and he seemed to come in at the right time. Despite football being on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, spirits were still high in the United camp with things developing in the background with United still aiming to capitalise as soon as the football starts again. The Premier League seem to want the rest of the season to be played out, which will no doubt delay the following season somewhat. Fernandes’ presence in the squad has provided a lot of thinking with desire, hunger and everything else back at the club. There is belief that Fernandes is the player that could propel United in the right direction providing the hierarchy keep investment going in the right direction too.

Bruno Fernandes was born in Maia which is in the Metropolitan Area of Porto, Portugal on the 8 September 1994 and started his youth football career with FC Infesta in 2002, leaving in 2004 for Boavista, a club he was part of for eight years, other than a five year loan to Pasteleira. On the 27 August 2012, Fernandes left Boavista for Novara Calcio in Italy. He was playing for the youth team for only a few weeks before being promoted to the first team and playing in Serie B. Whilst playing for Novara, Fernandes played 23 times for the first team, scoring four goals and a further two assists.

In the summer of 2013, the Portuguese midfielder signed for Udinese in a co-ownership deal, meaning both Novara and Udinese owned the player, but he was registered to one club as a player. In three seasons (2013/14, 2014/15, and 2015/16), Fernandes played 95 times, scoring 11 goals and a further 13 assists. It was clear his confidence in the game was growing. The next stop for Fernandes Sampdoria, signing for them on the 16 August 2016, initially on loan with an obligation for them to sign the player permanently. Fernandes played just 35 times for the Italian side, scoring five goals and a further three assists which helped the club finish in tenth place that season.

This put him on the radar for other clubs around Europe with Sporting Clube de Portugal entering the fray with intent to bring the player back to his native Portugal. On the 27 June 2017, after he returned from representing Portugal in the UEFA European U21 Championships, Fernandes signed for Sporting in a deal which was worth around €8.5 million plus bonuses which included a €100 million buyout clause. In his first season playing in the Primeira Liga the Portuguese midfielder played 56 times for his club, scoring 16 goals with a further 20 assists. It was the type of form to get him noticed even more, seemingly putting an end to a poor season for Sampdoria.

Fernandes was starting to show some of the traits he is known for today; leadership, ability on and off the ball, strong tackling, passing and his defensive contribution. The following season (2018/19), was his best in Portugal with the player involved in 53 matches, scoring 32 goals and assisting a further 18 – a total of 50 goal contributions in 53 matches, an average of 0.94 goals per appearance. This was something that got him noticed by United, Tottenham Hotspur and other European clubs. That transfer saga got a lot of attention last summer with the player being linked to United, then came the dead certainty of the player signing for United which then turned into Spurs taking the lead and a two horse race continuing.

The reports coming out of Portugal were believable then towards the end of the season, nothing happened which resulted in a lot of disappointment from United supporters that Solskjaer had only signed three players; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, and Harry Maguire. In the first half of the 2019/20 season, Fernandes made a total of 29 appearances for Sporting, scoring 15 goals and a further 14 assists. In January 2020, the rumours of United wanting to sign Fernandes started to emerge again and were at first looked at with disdain after the saga ended negatively in the summer. Towards the end of the month, it started to look as if something was happening and before you knew it, the player was playing his last few matches.

When United signed Fernandes, it was a sense of relief that the saga was over and we would be able to see just what the player can bring to the table. His career at United has started well and you can see what he has brought to the team when he plays. After making his debut against Wolves at the start of February, despite the 0-0 draw, Fernandes had a good game, considering that he was settling into a new team and environment. After the match, he was quoted as saying:

“This is what I want to do and what I need to do.

“Everyone knows we want to get into the Champions League places. I am here to help the team conquer this place and keep winning games.”

Solskjaer feels that Fernandes can be a leader at the club, comparing him to United legend Paul Scholes as a player but having a different personality off the pitch. At the time football ended because of the pandemic, Fernandes had played nine times, scoring three goals with a further four assists, which is a good start. Having Paul Pogba and Fernandes in the same team was something that the supporters feasted on during the three-month break from football, which was well with the hiatus. On comparing Fernandes to Scholes, Solskjaer said:

“He reminds me of Scholesy as a player but definitely a different type of personality off the pitch.

“Against Club Brugge, when he’s on the bench, he walks around, he speaks to the players who start, he helps them, he gives them points.

“And the ten minutes he played you could see that there’s a difference in our team.

“He’s another conductor and leader and winner. He wants to win. He doesn’t take 99 per cent as good enough and he’s impressed me.

“That’s something you see when you watch him but you don’t know about until you have him in your group. He’s been top class.”

Fernandes was one of the stars of the season for United, scoring 12 goals and eight assists in 22 appearances for the club, finishing as the top scorer in the UEFA Europa League and for both United and Sporting, making 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists – 49 goals in 50 appearances. Fernandes is a full international for Portugal, making his debut in 2017. To date, he has amassed a total of 19 caps for his country, scoring two goals. In 2017, Fernandes played a total of two matches for Portugal, making nine appearances in 2018. In 2019, he played eight times. His first goal was scored against Algeria in a friendly, a 3-0 win for Portugal with Fernandes scoring the second goal. In 2019, he scored his second goal, this time the opener, in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Luxembourg.

So far during the 2020/21 season, Fernandes has played in all but one match in the three competitions the club has appeared in so far. The only match he has missed was the Carabao Cup 3-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, playing in all 11 of the other matches in the Premier League, Carabao Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Fernandes has started in all seven Premier League matches, playing 90 minutes five times, also starting in two Champions League matches, playing 90 minutes once, coming off the bench against Luton Town in the Carabao Cup. The Portuguese midfielder has had a good season so far and will be seeking to continue to produce the numbers that he has been during his career.

So far in the 2020/21 season, Fernandes has made 11 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals and a further five assists. This shows that the 26-year-old has been involved in one goalscoring action in each match on average, which is a good sign that United are heading in the right direction with him in the squad. The summer addition of Donny van de Beek from Ajax is a good thing too as Fernandes will not be relied upon all the time, as has been shown already with the player playing a total of 782 minutes out of a possible 1080 in the 12 matches played already this season. It is likely that Fernandes will be played in rotation with the midfield being as strong as it is this season with Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic in the squad. There is so much more to come from both Fernandes and United this season, which is the exciting part.

Written by John Walker

October Review: Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Fred in the plaudits for Player of the Month

Manchester United played five times in October which started with negativity and ended with positivity. United’s season did not start as was expected, probably because of the coronavirus pandemic which saw last season delayed by three months, play into the summer with the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League being played into August. United did not have a pre-season this summer, playing just one match the week before they were due to start the 2020/21 Premier League season. United started the month at home, ending at home but with two very different matches being played.

4/10 – Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League

United started the month with a poor result at the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League as Spurs ran riot winning 6-1. The last result of this proportion was back in the 2010/11 season as United lost 6-1 to Manchester City. Anthony Martial was sent off for a violent conduct with Erik Lamela escaping punishment. Hueng-min Son scored a brace, also getting an assist, which was the case with Harry Kane. The other goals scored by Tanguy NDombele and Serge Aurier. United started well, winning a penalty inside two minutes which Bruno Fernandes scored. It all went downhill from there. United would have almost two weeks to dwell on this defeat.

17/10 – Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United – Premier League

After the international break, United had their chance to come back from their 6-1 defeat to Spurs. The match did not start all that well with Luke Shaw scoring an own goal inside two minutes but United fought back to get level with Harry Maguire heading home in the 23rd minute of the match. There were chances for each side during the match but the Magpies never really looked like they would score a goal for themselves. It seemed to be destined for a 1-1 draw, which was a positive result, however, a thunderous effort from Bruno Fernandes, a first United goal for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and a fourth goal from Marcus Rashford ended it on a high for United.

20/10 – Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Manchester United – UEFA Champions League

That was United’s first match back in the Champions League since the 2018/19 season, spending last season in the Europa League and reaching the semi-finals of the competition. It was perhaps the biggest match of the season so far and the most difficult match, at least on paper, in the group stage. United won at the Parc des Princes at the round of 16 stage in the 2018/19 season, and they did the same here to get three points on the board. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot before Anthony Martial scored an own goal in the 55th minute. Rashford won the game for United as he did the season before last.

24/10 – Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea – Premier League

Frank Lampard has only beaten United once in four matches last season, winning the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup, only to get beat by Arsenal in the final. Returning to Old Trafford where his club was beaten 4-0 at the start of last season could have garnered a similar consequence despite the money the club has spent in the summer to rejuvenate the squad, which is not happening to a consistent level at this moment in time. United were the better team in the 0-0 draw and should have at least scored one goal. Edinson Cavani made his debut and almost bagged a goal instantly. It was not meant to be for United – still unbeaten against Chelsea in the league.

28/10 – Manchester United 5-0 RB Leipzig – UEFA Champions League

The last match of the month for United and despite the stutter at the start of the month, United have turned their form around. Leipzig had never faced United before, so this was another unknown fixture. United took the lead through Mason Greenwood in the 21st minute with a superb finish. United seemed to be on top despite some chances by the German side and David De Gea making a few good saves. Marcus Rashford scored United’s second in the 76th minute, which was flagged for offside but given by VAR. Two minutes later he had a brace. Anthony Martial then won a penalty and scored with Rashford competing his hat-trick in added time.

Bruno Fernandes – five appearances (four starts), 335 minutes, two goals, two assists and one Man of the Match award.

The Portuguese midfielder has really taken to United like a duck to water in his short time playing for the club. He only made his debut at the start of February and has already scored 16 goals and 12 assists in 30 appearances for the club. Popular with the supporters of the club but also able to back that up on the pitch. There are very few matches that he has not been an inspiration in, even this month. Some say that he only scores penalties, which was quashed with that thunderous strike against the Magpies. Fernandes has registered more assists that any other United player in all competitions under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Marcus Rashford MBE – five appearances (four starts), 387 minutes, five goals, two assists and one Man of the Match award.

From taking on the Government to feed children who are on the poverty line to pulling out the performances for United to fire the goals is something that Rashford has done throughout the month of October. Since earning his MBE the 22-year-old has continue to give both on and off the pitch, earning the plaudits for both. He scored his first senior hat-trick against Leipzig on Wednesday evening, showing his true grit and ability to drive United forward. He also scored at the Parc des Princes once again, the second time he has done so in his career – the winning goal each time. His hat-trick was the quickest ever in the Champions League (27 minutes from start to finish).

Fred – five appearances (four starts), 384 minutes – becoming a big game player?

The Brazilian has been paired with Scott McTominay in a midfield pivot in three matches in October; Newcastle United (4-1), Paris Saint-Germain (2-1) and Chelsea (0-0), coming off the bench against Spurs and starting in a midfield diamond against RB Leipzig (5-0). Fred’s positional intelligence was one of the main reasons for him starting this month but his work-rate against Leipzig was immense which became his and United’s best performance of the month going from that big defeat to Spurs to a big victory, seemingly turning a full circle. United are yet to lose a match that Fred has started; in six starts United have won five and drawn one.

Notable Mentions: David De Gea, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba.

David De Gea has played 450 minutes of football in October and started the month with an all time low conceding six goals at Old Trafford for the second time in his career. As the month grew on through, his confidence and form started to get much better. Against Newcastle, he started to inspire, continued that in Paris, then against Chelsea putting in a great performance against Leipzig on Wednesday. Harry Maguire played 360 minutes in October, again started badly conceding six to Spurs but grew as the month went on despite missing the PSG match to injury. He scored the equaliser against Newcastle and led by example during the month.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has received praise this month for his performances. He scored his first goal for the club against Newcastle and has played 441 minutes and had some good performances against Newcastle, PSG and Leipzig. Scott McTominay played a total of 290 minutes in October, starting three of the five matches, coming off the bench for another. He played in a pivot with Fred for most of his matches, doing well for his club. Paul Pogba has played 247 minutes, coming off the bench more than starting. He seems to have found a new position in a diamond with Solskjaer playing with his tactics. Two assists for the Frenchman will hopefully inspire him more.

Who is your Player of the Month for October 2020?

A look at what lies ahead in November…

United will play six matches in November and Solskjaer will be looking to improve in the Premier League, carrying the form from the UEFA Champions League into the competition. United will play three matches at Old Trafford and three away from home in November, seeking to continue their good start to the Champions League season (two wins from two). United finished October sitting in 15th place in the Premier League, topping their group in the Champions League. If United can start November with a victory over Arsenal, carry that into their clash with Everton, those two matches could propel them up the table. November’s matches are against;

1/11 – Arsenal, Old Trafford – Premier League

4/11 – Istanbul Basaksehir, Fatih Terim Stadium – UEFA Champions League

7/11 – Everton, Goodison Park – Premier League

21/11 – West Bromwich Albion, Old Trafford – Premier League

24/11 – Istanbul Basaksehir, Old Trafford – UEFA Champions League

29/11 – Southampton, St Mary’s – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Bruno Fernandes has been a great signing for Manchester United, hence why add-ons are being paid quickly

Manchester United completed the signing of Bruno Fernandes during the January transfer window and the player made his United debut in a 0-0 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League. The 25-year-old got his first assist in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the Premier League on the 17 February, scoring his first goal for the club a matter of days later in a 3-0 victory over Watford, also getting an assist in that match. During the 2019/20 season, Fernandes made 22 appearances for United, scoring 12 goals and eight assists. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased with his midfielders performances last season and continues to be this season.

In total, including his heroics for his former club, Sporting Clube de Portugal, Fernandes made 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists – meaning he was involved in 49 goal contributions, almost equalling one goal per match. He also finished the season as the UEFA Europa League Golden Boot winner, scoring eight goals in the competition with a further four assists. United signed Fernandes for an initial £45 million and could spend a total of £66.7 million for the player if all add-ons are paid. The Sun has reported that £2.74 million has already been paid following United’s qualification for the UEFA Champions League this season.

Former United central defender Rio Ferdinand was quoted on BT Sport regarding Fernandes, where he works as a pundit, as saying:

“This man is ice cold in these situations. He changes his run-up a little bit there from his usual hop, skip and jump thing. The pressure was on but he calmed himself down and went back to basics.”

Former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole, also working as a pundit for BT Sport, was quoted as saying:

“We could see that while all the melee was going on, Bruno was the coolest man in this building. It was a great penalty.”

Since ha arrived at United, Fernandes has changed the mentality of the team and been a player that has underlined Solskjaer’s plans for the club moving forward. Prior to his January arrival, United were in a period whereby they were without Paul Pogba for a number of months with two separate ankle injuries and there was a distinct lack of creativity in the midfield which hampered United’s attacking players and their hunt to score goals. Before his arrival United had scored 61 goals in all competitions with 51 goals being scored after his arrival. This season, Fernandes has made three appearances for his club, scoring one goal and two assists.

The latest clause to become payable, after the Champions League qualification clause, is his 25 appearances for United, which was achieved in the 3-2 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon, which saw United concede the equaliser in added time then win a penalty, which was awarded by VAR after the referee blew the final whistle. Fernandes took the penalty, winning the match for United, meaning that in his 25 appearances for the club so far, the 25-year-old has scored 13 goals and 10 assists, meaning that he has 23 goal contributions or 0.92 goals per match at the club, which is a great statistic and one which will become even greater as the season goes on.

If Fernandes can achieve 25 goals for the club this season, adding 20 assists, it could see United have a very strong attacking side. Added to this, if Anthony Martial can build upon his 23 goals and 12 assists from last season, with Marcus Rashford also building on his 22 goals and 11 assists and last of all Mason Greenwood building on his 17 goals and five assists, United could be close to reaching 100 goals or more just from four players at the club. Should this happen, it will not only enforce that United attacking line is one of the best in the league but also that Solskjaer has achieved a feat in turning a United team that limped across their hurdles into a team worthy of challenging for trophies.

Written by John Walker

Cristiano Ronaldo always asks about Manchester United – still fond of the club

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has stated that Portugal and Juventus winger Cristiano Ronaldo is always interested in the latest developments from the Old Trafford club, his former club. Signed in the summer of 2003 for £12.24 million from Sporting Clube de Portugal, also the former club of Fernandes, 25, Ronaldo has around six years at United before leaving for Real Madrid, a club he continued the success which started in Manchester.

Winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time in 2008 after United won the Premier League and UEFA Champions League double in the 2007/08 season, and going on to win five more Ballon d’Or awards at the Spanish club, also winning four more Champions League titles at the club before leaving for Juventus in the summer of 2018. Ronaldo scored 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances at United before leaving for £80 million in the summer of 2009 and has always remained friendly to the club, even when playing – and scoring, against United.

Fernandes arrived at United during the January transfer window and in 22 appearances for the club so far, has scored 12 goals and eight assists for United, making a total of 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists between both United and Sporting, having 49 goal contributions in 50 matches, which shows the quality of player that United have signed. Fernandes has revealed that his compatriot, Ronaldo, has always remained interested in United when they speak.

Fernandes recently spoke to the official Manchester United website and was asked whether he spoke to Ronaldo. It has been revealed that Patrice Evra spoke to Ronaldo himself to find out about Fernandes before United signed the player in January, seemingly helping United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sign Fernandes as he was the player they needed to add, based on the success he has had at the club so far. Answering the question about whether he spoke to his compatriot, Fernandes said:

“I spoke with him after, not before. I said before – Manchester, for me, was the dream team. I always wanted to play for this team and it doesn’t matter who can talk about it – bad or good, I will come.

“It was my dream to play in the Premier League. I have the choice to come to Manchester United and it was two dreams in one. It was perfect. Of course, I spoke with Cristiano after and he spoke very well about the club. I spoke with him some days ago, again.

“Every time I speak with him, he asks me how Manchester is and if everything is okay. Everyone knows he spent a lot of time in Manchester and he has consideration for the club. He likes the club, I think he won his first Ballon d’Or here, so it’s a club who’ve marked him, for sure.”

It is good to hear that Ronaldo is still very much interested in United, which is the club he was given a change at a much higher level than he was playing in Portugal – Fernandes is experiencing the same thing now. Ronaldo was able to show his skillset and his talent at United and be guided by Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most decorated managers in British football, which clearly helped him reach for the stars, a level he is still at today, despite being ten years senior to Fernandes.

Written by John Walker

Bruno Fernandes tipped to become Manchester United captain, one day

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes could become the captain of the club according to a former manager. In January, United signed he Portuguese midfielder after a lot of speculation during the summer of 2019, which amounted to nothing. United had seen the error of their ways and were given a hint from former United players Patrice Evra and Cristiano Ronaldo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the move for the 25-year-old. This season, the player scored 12 goals and eight assists in 22 appearances.

Fernandes also became the top scorer in the UEFA Europa League, scoring eight times in the competition for both Sporting Clube de Portugal and United, the latter reaching the semi-final stage of the competition, beaten by six-time holders Sevilla. In total, for both United and Sporting, Fernandes made 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists – a total of 49 goal contributions in 50 matches, which is a great statistic for the player. Andrea Stramaccioni managed the player whilst at Udinese and he feels the player could captain United. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said:

“Bruno is a very good boy, a very good person. He is a really hard worker, he’s positive. When we were at Udinese he worked a lot and his approach was always positive.

“He can certainly captain Manchester United, he is a really talismanic player. He is loved by the fans, respected by his team-mates – even from opponents. To be captain of Manchester United is something really, really important. I hope he will be.

“I think now we don’t need to think about this kind of thing, he has to think about keeping his performance at a high level, as he is doing, and step by step gain the respect of everyone around him – the media, the fans – and continue to keep a high level.”

Fernandes has the leadership and the desire to captain United and based on that, I feel he would be a good captain for the club. That said, Harry Maguire is the current captain of the club after replacing Ashley Young, who left the club for Inter Milan during the January transfer window. For that reason, Fernandes will probably not be the captain of the club unless Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels he needs to change his current captain, which might seem unlikely moving forward.

A club like United would benefit from different types of leadership on and off the pitch and Fernandes could become an additional captain in the team, stepping up when he plays and Maguire does not. Also, leadership on the pitch can come from more than one player and Fernandes would thrive in giving extra guidance. You can see the player wants to achieve things at this club and that leave him standing out ahead of others at this time. The 25-year-old has come to United to win trophies.

It does not matter what opposition supporters say about United or any of their players, you can see that Fernandes’ arrival has caused something, hence the constant picking of United 22 penalties this season and the mocking of the player, who has scored mostly penalties for United. This gives an indication that United are being feared again. They were not awarded penalties because they are Manchester United. The penalties were awarded because United were fouled in the box.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW