Nemanja Matic surprised by the immediate impact of Bruno Fernandes this season

Manchester United defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic has admitted that he has ben surprised with the speed of which Bruno Fernandes has adapted to life at the Old Trafford club since signing for the club during the January transfer window. He has had an immediate impact at the club which is a good thing.

So far this season, Fernandes has made 12 appearances for the club, scoring four goals and four assists. During a period in which Paul Pogba was out of action through injury, Fernandes filled in and immediately became a player that could be trusted in the squad, helping drive United forward on their push for a top four finish this season.

United will be back in action on Tuesday evening as they face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League, seeking three points to keep the chase on Chelsea and rise up to fifth in the league after being leapfrogged by Wolverhampton Wanderers after they beat Aston Villa 1-0 at the weekend. Fernandes played two hours against Norwich City in the FA Cup on Saturday, so he could be rested against Brighton.

Matic has stated that he knew United were signing quality in Fernandes because the Serbian has kept an eye on Portuguese football after he left Benfica in 2014. At that time, Fernandes was playing for Udinese in Italy, then signing for Sampdoria in the summer of 2015, before signing for Sporting Clube de Portugal in the summer of 2017. Matic said:

“I’ve followed him for a long time because I played in the Portuguese league at Benfica.

“I knew he would bring quality for us. He played for a big club with a lot of pressure to win, but I didn’t think he would adapt so quick. From the first minute in the Premier League he made the difference.

“I’m happy for him and happy we have him in the team. He’s playing in the position where he needs to make the difference. He has all the ability to be the leader on the pitch.”

It is good to see United with Fernandes in the team. Last summer, when the player was hotly linked with a move to the Old Trafford club, there was some disappointment when nothing materialised after a summer of rumours from his home nation. It was great to see United sign the player in January though, which was needed. Now he is forming a partnership with Paul Pogba, it could set United up on the road to greatness again.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world, just beating Lionel Messi, says Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United and Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes has chosen his compatriot, Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world at present, just beating Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. The 25-year-old followed in Ronaldo’s footsteps in January by league Sporting Clube de Portugal for United.

Fernandes has seemingly hit the ground running at United, making 11 appearances, scoring four goals and four more assists and seems to be vastly proving his ability in England’s top flight, just as Ronaldo did 17 years ago, despite being seven years his junior at the time he left Portugal for Manchester, proving himself as a world-class player at the club.

The United midfielder, who compliments French World Cup winning midfielder, Paul Pogba at the club, having played with him competitively for the first time a week ago, spoke to Ronaldo before making he move from Sporting to United, which was heavy speculation last summer, materialising in nothing, making the move six months later instead.

Fernandes spoke to SoccerBible during the coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom, speaking about many things. However, in this instance the 25-year-old spoke about his international teammate, Ronaldo who he says is the best player in the world right now. Speaking about this and giving more insight as to how he came to the conclusion, Fernandes said:

“As a person from Portugal, every time someone mentions your name with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, you just have to be grateful. You can like [Lionel] Messi more than Ronaldo or you can like Pele more than any other player.

“I didn’t see Pele play so I can’t say he was the biggest player in the world. For me, Cristiano is the best I’ve ever seen. Messi and Cristiano are the best. You can’t say they are not the best players in the world. You can like one or there other.

“Italian people may like someone like Pirlo, English people may like Beckham more, you have your choice but what these two players have done for football (Messi and Ronaldo) is impressive.

“Cristiano is a Portuguese guy like me, I need to enjoy him. He is the best for me.

“When I arrived at Manchester United, people in the kitchen would say, ‘do you know, every day when Cristiano came in he would go around and say good morning to everyone’. Two ladies come to me every day and say ‘You know Cristiano did that, you need to do the same'”

Ronaldo has achieved so much in his career for both club(s) and country. At Sporting, the young forward played 31 times, scoring five goals and five assists. He won the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira with the club before leaving for United. At the Old Trafford club, he replaced David Beckham donning the famous number seven shirt.

In six years at United, Ronaldo played a total of 292 times, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists, winning three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one FA Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup. From United, Ronaldo headed to Real Madrid with the Spanish club paying £80 million for the player.

In Madrid, Ronaldo spent nine seasons, playing 438 times, scoring 450 goals and 131 assists, winning two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, two Supercopa de España, four Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and three Club World Cups. Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus and has played 78 times, scoring 54 goals and 14 assists, winning the Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana. With Portugal, Ronaldo has been capped 117 times, scoring 82 goals, winning UEFA Euro 2016 and the UEFA Nations League.

Bruno Fernandes has long-term vision for Manchester United and that it to win titles as they are important

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has stated that his long-term vision at the Old Trafford club it to win titles, which are the most important things in football. Every footballer will dream of lifting the Premier League title and that is something, among others that the Portuguese magnifico wants to achieve at the club.

Fernandes, 25, signed for United from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the January transfer window and his start at the club has been great, making 11 appearances, scoring four goals and four assists. The player has added creativity to the midfield, which was something that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed at the club, especially with injuries.

The coronavirus pandemic stopped world football for a period of time with the Premier League returning after a three month suspension last week with United drawing 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur then beating Sheffield United 3-0 in the first match back at the Theatre of Dreams. United will face Norwich City in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday.

Fernandes and French midfielder Paul Pogba were tipped to make a good midfield partnership during the lockdown in the United Kingdom with many talking about the possibility of it working. Against Spurs, albeit late in the game, we saw that for the first time competitively with Pogba winning a penalty with Fernandes scored. The Portuguese midfielder has positive things to say about Pogba, speaking to The Dial Up by Soccer Bible, saying:

“Paul [Pogba] is the guy who came when I arrived with a big book and said ‘Where do you want to live? What price you want to pay? House or apartment?’ and flicked through the pages.”

Fernandes has good things to say about United, which has been said in the past, well ever since he made the move which came after a lot of speculation last summer, ending in upset as nothing ever materialised despite a lot of reports of such coming from Portugal. Fernandes went on to say the following:

“When Manchester United called me, I also cried [as well as when he speaks about Sporting], because it is my dream. I took my wife, I gave her a hug and said ‘this is my dream, we will conquer my dreams’. My dreams are my family’s dreams.”

The b best part of the conversation was his expectations for United during his spell at the club. Fernandes wants to win titles and that is something that Solskjaer wants too, coming the day after Liverpool secured their first Premier League title after Manchester City lost to Chelsea on Thursday evening. Fernandes, concluding, said:

“I came to Manchester United to help everyone — I want to be successful at Manchester United. All of the players playing at Manchester United need to be focused on winning titles.

“You need to know when you come [to Manchester United], you need to focus on titles. Titles are the most important — in Manchester it doesn’t matter how you play, but you need to play to win games. It doesn’t matter how.”

It is great that the 25-year-old wants to achieve a lot at United. In the past seven years many players have come through the doors at the Theatre of Dreams not having the same dream to achieve and it is great that United have now found a player in Fernandes that wants to achieve everything he can at the club. Of course, it might not happen but just having players that want to try is good enough. You can see the full conversation below.

Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes partnership is going to be dangerous, says Alan Shearer

Premier League all-time top scorer Alan Shearer has described the potential partnership of Manchester United midfielders Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes as dangerous. The due linked up competitively fir the first time in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Friday with the Frenchman likely to start against Sheffield United.

The former Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and England striker, who scored 260 Premier League goals during his career spoke about the two United players on Match of the Day on Saturday evening, the first after a three-months break because of the coronavirus pandemic which suspended the league. Shearer said:

“Bruno Fernandes was the best player on the park. His first touch and his first thought is to look and to play forward, and he makes the players ahead of him better players because of that.

“The options that he now provides because of that, his energy, his ability to pick the right pass, whereas before he arrived they were struggling in that position.

“If Pogba’s going to play on a regular basis, or decides to stay, then it could be a very, very good partnership.

“When he came on, he was excellent, he looked up for the fight, and they looked a dangerous partnership.

“It’s time for him to deliver now, there’s far too much talk about him off the pitch, he’s got to do it now.”

Pogba was substituted into the game in the 63rd minute of the match and his performance inspired United to earn a point, coming back from a goal down, albeit from the penalty spot after the Frenchman won the penalty, which Fernandes scored, making it his fourth goal of the season. It was Pogba’s eighth appearance of the season and good to see him back.

Pogba could have earned himself a start against Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, a must-win match for United, if they intend to keep chase on Chelsea, who are now five points clear of them inside the top four. United, after stuttering against Spurs, will need to ensure they win every game, hoping that Chelsea do lose some matches.

If both Pogba and Fernandes can inspire United with some brilliant creativity, allowing the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood get amongst the goals, it could be a good end to the season for United. Pogba and Fernandes will add some brilliant dynamism into United’s midfield.

United left-back, Luke Shaw feels that Pogba has earned a start against the Blades at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening with the Frenchman making his first appearance for the club since Boxing Day. After his 63rd minute introduction against Spurs, Pogba won a penalty for United in the 81st minute with United earning a draw. About Pogba, Shaw said:

“I told him afterwards how much of a difference he made.

“He didn’t play for that long but obviously it’s great to have him and Marcus Rashford back in the side.

“They are very important players and maybe we can see Paul from the start on Wednesday.”

United will be ready for the Blades on Wednesday, who will be without Dean Henderson as he cannot play against United and defender John Egan, who was sent off in the 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon. This is an important match for United as Wolverhampton Wanderers are level on points with United and the Blades are just two points adrift. If United do not win, they could have a lot to lose.

Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes both told to make sacrifices ahead of Manchester United link-up

Manchester United midfielders Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could be a big success as a midfield partnership, as long as both players are willing to make sacrifices along the way, says former United midfielder Darren Fletcher. Fernandes has impressed ever since signing for the club in January, playing nine times and scoring three goals and four assists.

Pogba will need to step up to the plate for the remainder of the season after sitting out most of the season with ankle injuries, playing just eight times, scoring no goals but assisting twice. Both players are yet to play in the same team competitively, although they played together in a 2-1 defeat against West Bromwich Albion – a training match at Old Trafford.

United will be back in Premier League action next Friday as they travel to London to face Tottenham Hotspur at their new stadium, the first time United will have played there. Supporters of the club have been looking forward to seeing the pair line-up in midfield for United, with both considered to be two of the best players at the club.

Fletcher recently spoke on the United Podcast, saying that the prospect of the two players actually playing together this season and forming a partnership was an intriguing one, warning that they would need to adapt to each other. When asked if he thinks the duo will be able to work together in the centre of the pitch, Fletcher stated:

“Without doubt, of course. Great players can come together. Somebody might have to sacrifice a little bit of something – that’s part of being in a team, it’s not an individual sport.

“When you play with a certain midfield, whether it’s a midfield three, you adapt your game to complement each other.

“That’s what I had to do at United. I was in the team with lots of different midfielders, lots of combinations and, if a certain midfielder was playing, I would try to take up positions to allow him to benefit and he would do things to allow me to benefit.

“It’s all about being compatible and recognising the strengths of your fellow team-mates and how to get your best performance, but, ultimately, you might be sacrificing what you do best to allow someone else to excel, which helps the team win.”

United will need to take to the ground already in a running position to face Spurs in a week’s time. Dele Alli will be missing from the match as he has been suspended by the Football Association, but Harry Kane should be fit to face United with former manager, Jose Mourinho now in charge of Spurs. United will need to work hard for the important three points.

Speaking specifically about Fernandes, who arrived at the club from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the January transfer window, who has been a ray of sunlight in the team ever since his arrival, helping contribute to United 11 match unbeaten run, scoring 29 goals, conceding twice and keeping nine clean sheets. Fletcher said:

“I think he’s been fantastic. Listen, his ability has been there for everyone to see. For me, it’s been his personality and his attitude.

“He tries things, he tries difficult passes but, when he gives it away, it’s his reaction after he does it. It’s fantastic, his hunger to try and get the ball back. He doesn’t throw his arms up in the air or sulk and moan.

“He’s bossing people on the pitch, he’s taking responsibility. He’s looked like the epitome of a Manchester United player. He wants to be there, he wants the ball, he demands the ball.

“He’s seen Old Trafford as his theatre and he’s relishing it. He’s sort of been a breath of fresh air with personality more than anything, which is what you need to play for Manchester United. Ability is not enough.

“You need personality to play for Manchester United – and he epitomises it.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking forward to the resumption of the season with United still sitting in fifth place in the Premier League and seeking to finish in the top four to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. Of course, they have the change by also winning the UEFA Europa League this season but winning in the league will be the best opportunity to get what the club needs to achieve.

Bruno Fernandes broke down in tears after Manchester United transfer; passion at its finest

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes broke down in tears after making a move to the Old Trafford club during the January transfer window. He stated that he had fought his whole life for the club. The Portuguese midfielder started strongly at United, playing nine times before the coronavirus pandemic suspended world football.

Fernandes, 25, has scored three times for United, assisting four times, which is something that many supporters of the club have longed for during the suspension of football and with United playing in a fortnight’s time, hoping that the midfielder will continue his early form for the club, possibly playing alongside Paul Pogba, who has recovered from injury.

Cristiano Ronaldo made the switch from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the summer of 2003, something that Fernandes remembers and the player had a great time at the club, winning three Premier League titles, one UEFA Champions League trophy and a FIFA Club World Cup, playing 292 times for United, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists.

Fernandes recently had an Instagram Live interview with Mario Djurovski where he spoke about signing for United around four months ago. It seems a long time with everything that has happened in the world, not to mention that by the time United kick a ball competitively, it will have been three months since they last did so. Fernandes said:

“You know, I will say the truth that I was scared. It was a dream [come true] but it was a big dream.

“For me, playing in England and for Manchester [United] was the highest part of my career. To play in the Premier League, for one of the best teams in the world.

“When I received the call saying, ‘Bruno, you have the chance of moving to Manchester’ I called my wife, my brother, my sister, my mother and just started crying.

“But I was crying through happiness. I fought all my life for this, for this top club. The chance was here and I needed to take it with both hands, to follow my dream.

“My family knew since the beginning that I wanted to be a footballer, they knew my big dream was to be in the Premier League and to play for Manchester.”

This shows what type of player United have signed. A player that wants to play for the club, a player that has always wanted to play for the club and a played that is absolutely buzzing to be at the club. For a long time, United have been signing players that have no desire to pull on the famous Manchester United shirt, just a desire for money.

Fernandes also confirmed that he had spoken to Ronaldo about United, which helped to carve the dream into reality. Fernandes became the third Portuguese player to sign for United from Sporting, the fourth player to arrive from the club with Ronaldo and Nani the other Portuguese players and Marcos Rojo the other player. Fernandes said:

“I talked about Manchester United with Cristiano. He just said good things about United.

“He said he started living his dream here and he started being a really good player here.

“I think he is happy with my transfer and I also talked with Ole and he said he asked Cristiano about me and he said good things about me which is good.

“Cristiano plays with me in the national team and he knows me, and for me he’s a good person. I want to follow his steps.”

Fernandes has the ability to become a star at the club. His presence in the team right now has been good, helping drive United forward. He is a player that has a thirst for glory and wants what is best for the club, which is a win/win scenario for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club. In a fortnight’s time, hopefully he can be the difference against Tottenham Hotspur with United needing a big three points.

Bruno Fernandes ready to adapt to outsmart opposition also has long-term vision after bright Manchester United start

Since signing for Manchester United at the tail end of January and playing just nine times for his new club, Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes has admitted that he must adapt his game to outsmart his opponents when the Premier League resumes later this month. Fernandes made a great start for United, scoring three goals and four assists.

The 25-year-old was also named as the Premier League Player of the Month for February and continued his form into March with football all around the world being suspended by mid-March and since then, only the Bundesliga has returned with the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga due to resume this month.

Fernandes has helped revive United, who were lacking creativity in the months leading up to the Portuguese magnifico’s arrival at the Theatre of Dreams, with Paul Pogba injury for most of the season and Scott McTominay also unjust for long spells, leaving United’s midfield at bare bones, which was problematic, not to mention the lack of attack.

United’s return to Premier League action will be against Tottenham Hotspur away from Old Trafford, a match which should have been played days after United beat LASK 5-0 in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg, which saw United in great form with 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions, 29 goals scored, two goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

Fernandes, speaking to Talent Ain’t Enough, spoke about many things including him doing a lot better than he has so far in his career, seemingly being his own worst critic in thinking he has not been good enough, which shows a true professional and a player that strives to be the best he can be, which is great. The Portuguese midfielder said:

“My idea for the next few years is doing better than I have until now. For me, in games it’s not good enough, because now is maybe the most difficult part.

“The players start to recognise your game, start to know how you move, how you pass, how you shoot and the things become difficult now.

“So now I need to improve more and to work more and understand more the teams who I play against because they will understand me better.

“But I need to be prepared to understand better the difficulties they can have.

“My vision of coming to Manchester United is that I’m at one of the best clubs in the world, for me, the best club in England”

It is clear that Fernandes wants to achieve great things in his footballing career, which could be one of the reasons that he decided to leave Sporting Clube de Portugal for United back in January – there was a lot of speculation last summer suggesting that the player and the club were meant to be together, waiting six months or so for that to happen.

United have not been as great as they could be for about seven years now, since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, when United lifted their 20th league title and 13th Premier League title. They have not really challenged since then, despite coming second, 19 points adrift of Manchester City a few years back.

United has achieved glory, winning the FA Community Shield twice, the EFL Cup (now the Carabao Cup) once and the UEFA Europa League, which completed the clubs historic haul of all major honours they could have won in the history of the club. Fernandes will be hungry to add to United’s trophy haul and be part of the club new future, seeking glory.

Bruno Fernandes in the centre of a FIFA probe into transfer from Sporting to Manchester United – reports

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes is reportedly at the centre of a probe by FIFA into the transfer from Sporting Clube de Portugal to Manchester United in January 2020. The Portuguese club are struggling financially, despite the £46.5 million transfer earlier in the year. It is reported that they owe Sampdoria money from the deal.

Serie A side, Sampdoria, who Fernandes, 25, played for during the 2016/17 season, claim they are owed £4 million from the sale of the Portuguese magnifico during the January transfer window. It is suggested that the club has made FIFA aware of the situation and will be expecting them to ensure they get what they are owed, if it is correct.

In the summer of 2017, Fernandes was sold to Sporting by Sampdoria in a £7.5 million deal after what seemed like a successful season in which the player made a total of 35 appearances, scoring five goals and a further three assists whilst playing 1,845 minute of football. Of course, this was not the best performance by the player with more still to come.

In his first season at Sporting, Fernandes played a total of 56 times, playing in the Liga NOS, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, the Taça de Portugal Placard and the Allianz Cup. Fernandes ended the season scoring 16 goals, assisting 20 more in what was his best season yet. This is when the Portuguese club knew the player they had.

During the 2018/19 season, Fernandes played 53 times in the Liga NOS, Europa League, the Taça de Portugal Placard and the Allianz Cup – this time scoring a total of 32 goals, assisting 18 more which saw him involved in 50 goals in 53 appearances which is a good output by the midfielder. It was then that the rest of Europe started to notice the player.

Despite being linked to United during the last summer transfer window, Fernandes only made the move to United in January, initial for £46.5 million in a deal that could rise to around £67 million. It is widely known that Sporting have financial difficulties which have seemingly been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic which has stopped world football.

This was worsened with reports that a German bank, who Sporting did a deal with to release funds upfront for the transfer of Fernandes to United was blocked because of the financial uncertainty following the coronavirus pandemic. The issue here is unrelated to this as Sporting feel they owe nothing to Sampdoria.

When Fernandes moved to Sporting, he unilaterally ended his contract one year after moving to the club, in a similar situation which saw the likes of Rui Patricio, Daniel Podence and Gelson Martins after players were attacked by supporters in the training ground. Whilst the mentioned teammates left the club, Fernandes signed a new contract.

Sporting feel that as his original contract with them was ended by the player, they had signed him as a free agent, meaning any agreement in the original contract was now null and void. This obviously requires a look into the legality of what happened but Sporting feel they are right at this moment in time. I am sure we will see what happens.

Bruno Fernandes gives reasons for his impressive start at Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes has revealed the reasons for his magnificent start at Manchester United following his £46.5 million move to the club from Sporting Clube de Portugal at the end of January. Since the 25-year-old arrived at the Theatre of Dreams, he has helped put the life back into the midfield, at a time where it was needed the most.

Before the coronavirus pandemic suspended world football, United were on an 11-match unbeaten run, scoring 29 goals, conceding just twice and keeping a total of eight clean sheets, which is great form considering how dire the season has been for the club. United sit in fifth place in the Premier League, seeking a place in the UEFA Champions League.

United have looked like a completely different team with Fernandes playing in midfield, which makes me wonder why he was not signed in the last summer transfer window, a period whereby he was linked to the club near enough every single day, the speculation hotting up towards the end of the transfer window – a move not actually happening.

Since arriving at United earlier this year, Fernandes has played a total of nine times, scoring three goals (including two penalties) and assisting a further four goals. He is also yet to see United defeated, which is a good sign for the future. The 25-year-old gave an interview with the official Manchester United website, covering reasons for his start at the club:

“It is difficult to say one thing because at Manchester United, going out at Old Trafford, everybody knows about the stadium and the atmosphere.

“But when you have the kit of Manchester United, all red, with your black shorts, and you feel the atmosphere of the stadium, and you feel everything, you feel the support of your fans, it is something special.

“For me, for example, when I came from Sporting, I arrived and I was in Manchester for two days. I played against Wolves and they already had a song for me.

“I had just arrived and the supporters already gave me the support I need to be confident and be at home.

“I think this is the most important thing, that atmosphere and love you feel from your supporters.”

Fernandes has been showing United what he is made of which has raised the morale of the players and the clubs supporters after a tough season. His ability both on and off the ball is second to none and has left supporters thirsty for more. As a playmaker, Fernandes is effective and has clearly shown, in nine appearances, that he’s an all-round footballer.

When the current season resumes, if that is what is going to happen, many will be thirsty to see more of what Fernandes can offer this glorious football club. More to the point, seeing him link up with Paul Pogba, who has been injured for much of the season, along with Marcus Rashford, who is the clubs top scorer so far this season could be special.

United have the ingredients for a good squad at this moment in time. There is some deadwood that needs to be removed with some additional players coming in to make the club compete at the highest level once again. If the season is not cancelled, United will be seeking to earn a top four place in the league to gain Champions League football next season.

This is important for the club and something that Fernandes will want to achieve also. If Fernandes could reach double figures for both goals and assists over the remainder of the season, whenever it is played, he will have earned his stripes at the club. His leadership is something United needed now and will need in the future – a true United player.

Over the years Manchester United has signed many players from Portuguese clubs; Bruno Fernandes could be the new star of Old Trafford

At the end of January 2020, Bruno Fernandes became the sixth Portuguese player to sign for Manchester United and the seventh to sign from the Portuguese Liga NOS. United not only hold close relationships with clubs from Portugal in terms of transfers but also in terms of historic matches.

In 2003, United visited Fernandes’ old club Sporting Clube de Portugal, for a friendly match at the Jose Alvalade Stadium, built for the European Championships hosted in Portugal the next summer. It was here that Alex Ferguson found his next star in Cristiano Ronaldo, who as a skinny 18-year-old tore John O’Shea apart. It was almost a farewell match for Ronaldo, similar to what Fernandes has been experiencing with Sporting’s fans, who for weeks have seemed inclined to lose him to a European powerhouse just as they were with Ronaldo 17 years ago.

“We were on the bus for ages afterwards waiting for the chief executive David Gill and the boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

“We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo.” 

– Rio Ferdinand on facing Ronaldo at Sporting.

Whether Fernandes will have a similar impact at United as Ronaldo is doubtful, but he will hope to avoid the injury woes of the recently departed Argentine Marcos Rojo and the inconsistency of Nani. Nani was another hot talent, tipped as the ‘next Ronaldo’ and that expectation weighted heavily. Spectacular goals and spectacular celebrations were frequent in his seven years at the club but he never hit the heights expected regularly. Nani returned to face Sporting a few months after joining United, for the first match on the club’s road to glory in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Before that meeting, United had not played Sporting since the 1960s in the old Cup Winner’s Cup. The Portuguese team that United have most history with is actually Sporting’s great Lisbon rivals Benfica. The first ever meeting occurred in 1966, when George Best starred, scoring twice in a 5-1 away success. Two years later United became the first English team to win the European Cup with a 4-1 victory over Benfica at Wembley, against a team featuring the late great Eusebio. During the game Eusebio stood and applauded goalkeeping legend Alex Stepney for saving one of his shots.

“I saw it on telly afterwards and what had happened was that Eusebio had stood there applauding. Well, that’s the kind of man he was: the respect he gave to me and to football was tremendous.”

– Stepney speaking about the moment after Eusebio passed away in 2014.

After the 1960s United did not face Benfica again until being draw against the Eagles in the Champions League group stages two years in a row in 2005 and 2006, as well as later group stage matches in 2011 and 2017. Interestingly, Benfica were in two of only four groups that United have been knocked out of since the format began in 1994. There isn’t much transfer history between the two, with United only signing Swedish centre half Victor Lindelöf, and Benfica taking two Old Trafford flops in Bebe and Karel Poborsky.

Despite not having much of a relationship in the market, United always seem to be linked with Benfica players. Mention the names of Nicolas Gaitan and Ezequiel Garay to any United fan and they will probably still be convinced they will rock up in Manchester one day with how much constant speculation surrounded them. Renato Sanches and Joao Felix were two wonderkids who in recent years were heavily linked before making big moves to Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid respectively. There are notable former United players who do have ties however, such as Nemanja Matic and Angel Di Maria.

Besides the two Lisbon clubs, United have had run ins with Porto in Europe, a 4-0 win in 1997 was one of the finest European nights at Old Trafford while a 1-1 draw in 2004 which infamously saw future manager Jose Mourinho sprint down the touchline, knocked United out at the Round of 16 stage. An even quarter-final tie in 2009 was settled by a Ronaldo thunderbolt on United’s last visit to the Estadio do Dragao. In terms of transfers, as recently as 2018 United signed youngster Diogo Dalot while in 2007 Anderson joined on the same day as Nani in a double swoop.

Outside the big three, the only other Portuguese teams United have faced are Bovista in 2001/02 and Braga in 2012/13. United have a mixed history against Portugal’s powerhouses, both in terms of results and in terms of transfer record, but all United fans will hope Bruno Fernandes from Sporting can be the next Ronaldo and not the next Rojo.

copyright: JW