Influential Fernandes set for first taste of Manchester derby

LONDON (AFP) – Bruno Fernandes can cement his status as Manchester United’s new talisman when the Portugal midfielder gets his first taste of the derby rivalry with Manchester City today.

Fernandes has made a flying start with United following his January move from Sporting Lisbon for an initial GBP47 million (USD61 million).

The 25-year-old has scored three goals and provided two assists in his seven appearances, helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team extend their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.

Since the Alex Ferguson era ended in 2013, United have struggled to find players with the personality and presence to cope with the pressure of trying to emulate those golden days.

But the influential Fernandes already appears a perfect fit.

He has shown no signs of being intimidated by the task of becoming United’s leading man. Said to be a vocal presence in training sessions, Fernandes displayed his leadership qualities with several animated discussions with Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay and Fred during Thursday’s FA Cup fifth-round win at Derby.

“I like to see that in a player, he doesn’t change coming into a new team. He’s the same as he was at Sporting,” Solskjaer said.

“That’s a boy with confidence, with quality, good form and that’s his personality. Everyone should be themselves. He’s come in as a leader and he’s shown he’s a leader.”

United reportedly balked at Sporting’s summer asking price for Fernandes, but the fee they paid in the January window is already looking a bargain.

Fernandes’ impact has been so notable that some critics claim Solskjaer and United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward should have gone harder to sign him in the close-season.