Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has repeatedly stated that he will only make signings ‘if the right players become available’ – Bruno Fernandes is surely one of those players.
The Sporting playmaker has already registered 13 goals and 13 assists this season and would provide United with much-needed quality in midfield.
Fernandes’ ability to play as an attacking midfielder as well as in a deeper role would certainly be an asset to United – the poor form of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira alongside injury problems for Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba has left United short of bodies in both areas.
United were heavily linked with the Portugal international during the summer but a deal failed to materialise – as a result Solskjaer’s squad has looked short of a top-class midfielder in the first half of the season.
United’s inability to break down teams from the bottom half of the Premier League will surely persuade Solskjaer to dip into the transfer market to find a player with an innate creative instinct.
Premier League-proven number tens such as Jack Grealish and James Maddison would perhaps be safer options, but getting a deal done in January for either seems unrealistic especially given their importance to their respective teams.
Although Solskjaer is keen to avoid ‘Alexis Sanchez’ style transfers midway through the season, it should be recognized that if United fail to bring in a midfielder this month their chances of qualifying for the Champions League will be significantly hindered.
Bringing in a player of Fernandes’ standard would not only provide United with another elite player, but it could potentially lift the mood of a fanbase that has been riddled with negativity this campaign.
Unlike Sanchez, Fernandes would not demand such an astronomical wage as he isn’t moving from a direct rival or top European club, and although his transfer fee could potentially exceed £60million, Sporting are desperate to cash in due to their current financial situation.
With the Portuguese club expressing such a willingness to sell, it makes the deal look unbelievably more attainable than a move for Grealish or Maddison.
Even if Fernandes does come to Old Trafford, it wouldn’t spell the end of potential moves for either of the Englishmen – with the former Sampdoria man able to play deeper, it could be that United’s team for the 2020-21 season would accommodate both him, and one of Grealish or Maddison.
That is a tantalising prospect for any United fan but for that to become reality Solskjaer’s men would almost certainly need to qualify for the Champions League.
With Jadon Sancho’s signature also craved by the majority of the Red Devils’ faithful, Solskjaer knows that United must improve in the second half of the season if he wants to attract world-class talent in the summer.
With that being said, Fernandes could be the key that unlocks the door to Europe’s elite players, should he fire United to the Champions League.
Any player averaging more than one goal contribution per game is likely to have a major impact on a team – even if Fernandes manages to score or assist at half the rate he is at the moment, he would still be far superior to any of the attacking midfielders United currently have at their disposal.
It is always a gamble bringing a foreign player to the world’s toughest league, and in Ed Woodward’s eyes it is an expensive one.
But in reality, United will almost certainly not secure Champions League football without signing a midfielder this month, and players such as Maddison and Sancho will laugh off United’s interest in the summer, and move to another of Europe’s elite clubs.
There are very few, if any, players of Bruno Fernandes’ ability readily available this winter, and if Woodward and Solskjaer alike are serious about this rebuild and want Manchester United to remain a European powerhouse, it is a calculated gamble they surely must take.