LONDON (AFP) – Bruno Fernandes is targetting Europa League glory after helping lead Manchester United back to the Champions League.
The midfielder scored in United’s 2-0 win at Leicester last Sunday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side sealed third spot in the Premier League, meaning they will return to Europe’s elite competition next season after a year’s absence.
United lead LASK 5-0 from the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie and will face Istanbul Basaksehir or Copenhagen in the quarter-finals as part of a mini-tournament due to be played in Germany from the quarter-finals onwards.
Fernandes has scored 10 goals since joining from Sporting Lisbon in January to inspire United’s top-four return and now he wants silverware.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” he told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
Fernandes’ penalty and Jesse Lingard’s late goal sent United into the Champions League at Leicester’s expense on the final day.
The midfielder is looking forward to making the step up to the Champions League next season.
“Of course, playing Champions League is always special and I hope it can be with the supporters, that will be more special,” he said.
“We deserve to be in the best games, in the best European competition. Nothing against the Europa League, but everyone knows the best competition is the Champions League.”
United’s return to the Champions League marks a significant milestone as the Red Devils seek to close the gap to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the battle for Premier League supremacy.
A huge 33-point gap to champions Liverpool shows the strides they still have to make to become title contenders again, but the signing of Fernandes has transformed the mood and results at Old Trafford.
“Bringing Bruno in, in January, has made a big difference,” said Harry Maguire, who cost United a world record GBP80 million for a defender at the start of the season.
“To finish third in the Premier League should be a minimum requirement from this club, but next season we have to keep improving and building.”
During his 19 months in charge, Solskjaer has repeatedly stressed the need for a culture change as well as a return to winning ways on the pitch.
Greenwood and Rashford are not the only academy graduates to make important contributions this season. Brandon Williams and Scott McTominay are established squad players, while United have also got back to picking off exciting young British talent from other clubs in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
“We are going places and we’ve got a team you can like. You can see the DNA of Manchester United. At least that’s what I feel,” said Solskjaer.
Key to United’s improvement from sixth last season to third has been the success of their four big signings in Fernandes, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and James, compared with wasted transfer fees and wages spent on players in previous years, including Alexis Sanchez.
If they are to keep heading in the right direction, their recruitment must be spot on again, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho reportedly United’s premier target for the summer.