Bruno Fernandes, gifted with late ascent

What is a great modern player? One who thinks fast, decides fast, makes quick and orderly transitions, and is aggressive on defense to stabilize his team when he loses the ball. Bruno is like that, ”says José Morais, who as Mourinho’s assistant at Inter, Madrid and Chelsea watched closely several of the best footballers of the century.

Bruno Fernandes (Maia, Portugal, 26 years old), the undisputed leader of Manchester United that tonight will face Villarreal in the final of the Europa League (21.00, Movistar Champions League), was always a gifted football player. But, unlike so many players who since their teens are promoted by the market as phenomena – because they play in the quarry of a dazzling club, because they are endorsed by a representative or a powerful coach, or simply because they are visually attractive because of their face, their body or his panache — this skinny Portuguese with asymmetrical features was ignored. Boavista had suffered an administrative relegation to the Second Division when in 2008, at the age of 18, they sold to Novara, from the Italian Third Division. Since he never passed through the lower ranks of the Portuguese national team, he landed in Lombardy without a cache. He went unnoticed until Udinese, famous for their scouts, made him debut in Serie A.

“If you are a foreigner in Italy and, furthermore, you have little physical capacity, normally they will not take you into account,” observes Manuel Cordeiro, who as Paulo Sousa’s field assistant at Fiorentina faced Udinese from his countryman; “This explains the great intelligence of Bruno.”

“He is distinguished by the perfect interpretation of the needs of the party,” says Cordeiro. “He not only adapts to what the coach asks of him: even more difficult, he adapts to the opponent’s approach. He interprets when to be ten, eight, nine or nine and a half. There are players who since childhood do one thing well and specialize. Bruno has wanted to do everything well and he has succeeded. In Udinese he played in the middle with a 3-5-2 and he did not have as much goal as now because he did not read the spaces so well. Now he is an extraordinary scorer ”.

Bruno Fernandes has 28 goals and 17 assists in all competitions this season. He is by far the player who created the most scoring chances in the Premier League, 137, by Kevin de Bruyne’s 111 or Mount’s 106. If the English championship is the realm of media coaches, an anomaly occurs at United: it is the only one of the top four in the standings that cannot be considered a signature team. If City is from Guardiola, Liverpool from Klopp and Chelsea from Tuchel, United is not from Solskjaer. It’s from Bruno Fernandes.

The leadership of the Portuguese is related to decisive actions. No midfielder has his gift for managing the times in the last meters. “Without being a forward, he has an incredible finish,” says the former Fiorentina coach, who now works with the Polish national team. “His shot is excellent, from outside the area as well as joining in the second row. Very few midfielders know how to reach the empty space so well that the nine when he comes down to receive or moves to one side; and very few know how to generate those spaces at the ends and ends when the opposing defense is pending of fixed references. Bruno has that feeling which is very difficult to train or direct because it depends on tactical situations that arise. In general the technicians from the band cannot see those things. Bruno sees them and solves them spontaneously ”.

“There are 31-year-old players who are identical to when they were 21,” concludes Cordeiro. “We wanted to take him to Fiorentina but the club had no money and Sampdoria signed him. There he began to play at the apex of the diamond in a 4-4-2 and that aptitude to be deep was seen. He does it a lot at United: if he sees the two centers stick to Cavani, he knows how to get into the area to attract one of those defenders at the right moment when Cavani can stay hand in hand. He does the same on the wings when he faces teams that stand low and close on the inside. It goes out and generates a lot of doubts. If the side follows him, he opens a lane for Rashford or James, if not, he goes alone ”.

Tonight, Villarreal faces an anomaly from the era of remote-controlled football from the benches. Play against the Manchester of Bruno Fernandes.


“Bruno Fernandes stayed off the radar,” says José Morais, a former Mourinho aide. “He had to go to Italy, and there he came out of the shadows. It developed. He must have had a great personality and a great adaptability to succeed in the environment of the calcium. I met him when he returned to Sporting and I saw that he had an aura, a charisma on the pitch, an influence due to his character as a conqueror. It is extremely positive. He never hides his feelings. If he has something to say, it is frontal even if he has to be critical of his colleagues. He reminds me of Sergio Ramos because he doesn’t care who gets ahead of him: he’s going head-on. And with the ball it is the same. You take risks when you have to take them and are almost always right. That helps to win.

It is not often that highly creative footballers are the most combative on their teams. The United driver is also peculiar in that. “The players from the north of Portugal have the ability to work in their blood,” says Cordeiro, a manager who faced Bruno in Italy. “He played in the Boavista quarry. There they educate you to always put the team above the individual ”.

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