Goals and assists aside, what does Fernandes really offer?

Date published: Thursday 14th January 2021 8:44 - Ian Watson

Bruno Fernandes Man Utd

Get your mails in to theeditor@football365.com…


Fernandes does nothing other than score and create
I’m a Man United fan, so I take no great pleasure in musing this, but I have to say I’m a little worried about Bruno Fernandes further down the line. I know I could get scythed down over this, but I’m not that overly impressed of Fernandes as a player in general.

Look, his stats are incredible and he has provided more than enough quality moments at big times, but outside of the goals and assists – I’m aware he gets a sh1t tonne- he doesn’t do an awful lot. He’s pretty weak on the ball, gives away a lot of possession and a lot of moves break down at his feet.

See this is a weird one, he is obviously our most important player due to the amount of goals and assists that he gets, but what I’m asking is if he were to suffer a serious dip in output in either of those two areas, what use is he?
Paddy, Australia

READ MORE: Bruno Fernandes is our Premier League player of 2020 

Rom regret
One of the few boons of this horrendous near year-long virus lock-in has been the opportunity to keep up more closely with foreign leagues. I know many Premier League-only viewers witness their players transferred to the abyss of the non-British world, and promptly consign them to oblivion.

Anyone see the Coppa Italia today? Romelu Lukaku saved Inter Milan yet again with a heroic 119′ winner to send them through over Fiorentina.

For those that need reminding, Manchester United bought the Premier League-proven goalscorer in Summer 2017 for 76 million pounds. That season he was our top scorer, domestic and overall, as we finished 2nd and won the Europa League. The following year was a backsliding mess of non-investment and boardroom strife, as Mourinho lost his grip on the team. In the ensuing chaos, the 26 year old Lukaku was sold for a 10 million pound loss after 42 goals and 18 assists in 72 games.

If you are new to the Glazer’s swindling there were carefully crafted talking points to justify the move: he lacked the blistering pace needed to execute Ole’s one-note counter-attacking style, his removal would allow Martial and Rashford to flourish, etc. In some ways, these were, at least initially, proven true. With a full run of games, the mercurial and inconsistent LW Martial had 17 league goals as our #9.

This year Martial has again struggled for consistency, scoring 2 goals in 13 premier league starts (I have always rated him, and the 36 million we spend on the 18 year old relative unknown is inarguable great business). With no cover for striker and facing mounting injuries, last year United were forced to loan a 30 year old journeyman plying his trade in China, Odion Ighalo. After taking on 180,000 pounds a week of his 300k/week salary (!), he has yet to score a premier league goal in 15 appearances (he did score 5 goals in cup competitions).

With Ighaolo proving costly and ineffective, United at last accepted their need for real striking cover as well as a plan B, gambling on the signing of 33-year old free-agent Edison Cavani with 210,000 pound/week wages. Undoubtedly class, he is aging and is coming off a frustrating year of injuries and being left out of PSG’s team. The move seems shrewd so far, and I hope for the best, but with Ighalo on his way, United are one 33 year-old knee giving way from again having no cover.

Now about that cast off… Lukaku, that’s it. He has become Inter Milan’s talisman, scoring 51 goals in 73 games. Italy is a slower, less competitive league admittedly: yet he has 4 goals in 5 champions league games this year, and 9 goals in 11 continental competitions the previous year. All this and he won’t be 28 until the summer.

Maybe Lukaku didn’t quite fit United’s prefered style of play and wasn’t in our long term plans, but how could he have been sold for a loss? It was madness. What about a replacement?

I remember sitting in a pub, watching one of Ronaldo’s last games for United, knowing he was on his way. Chatting excitedly, yet with trepidation, about who it would be to replace our outgoing 24 year-old reigning Ballon d’Or winner. With a world record fee incoming and our pedigree (consecutive league titles, reigning CL winners) surely we’d have our pick of replacements. Would we sign a ready-made world class player or could lightning strike twice with a heralded youngster? Could we wrest Ribery from Bayern Munich? Robben was said to be leaving Real Madrid for a bargain, maybe him? (Bayern would snap him up too for just 25 million euros ugh). David Villa, Bezema, David Silva (we judged his frame too slight for the PL), and Aguero were all considered. All would soon move to rivals for no more than 40 million pounds.

We ended up signing future right-back Anotonio Valencia for 16 million pounds and plastered the #7 on his back. He was a workhorse, could put in a decent ball, yet he had scored just 7 goals in 73 premier league games preceding the move. He’d go on to add another 17 league goals to his tally in 241 games for United. The remaining 64 million pounds? In the Glazers pockets. We wouldn’t even use that money to keep our own possible Ronaldo replacement in Carlos Tevez, refusing to offer an extension to the Champions League winning striker until it was too late. Even crueler, he’d join City and forever alter the balance of power in Manchester.

What’s that have to do with Lukaku? A few things. Don’t forget the rot set in long before Sir Alex left. Think of all titles United left on the table since the Glazers stole our club due to outright pillaging of our finances, and refusal of sensible investment.

With Lukaku they didn’t even pretend to care about a replacement. They pocketed the money, and began taking dividends on top of all their other blood-sucking practices. Ole in or Ole out, he’s here because he’s the cheap option. Talk all you want about the money we HAVE spent, but in relation to our incomes, it’s a drop in the bucket. United are a transfer laughing stock, Woodward’s misdeeds too many to mention, and the great money spent is mostly out of desperation.

United are on top (for now), but where would they be if they reinvested the Lukaku funds (76 million plus) on a world-class finisher in 2019?
Rory, MUFC



Some titles mean more
Johnny Nicolson’s article voiced an opinion I’ve long held: some league titles are worth more than others.

Here are my Top 5 and Bottom 5 PL title winners of the 21st century — not the ‘best’ winners necessarily (although obviously there’s a strong correlation) but the most and least historically significant. Although I must include one non-21st century winner and they are obviously…

Top 5

1. Man United, 1999. Only Treble Winners in English football history. Enough said.

2. Arsenal, 2004. Won the title unbeaten while playing some of finest football these shores have ever seen. Arguably underachieved but certainly not in the league.

3. Man United, 2008. United remain the only PL team to win Premier and Champions League in the same season. And they’ve done it twice. That puts the 2008 vintage in the pantheon — especially as they reigned over a league at the absolute pinnacle of its dominance.

4. Man City, 2018: Only team to break the 100 point barrier, and like Arsenal 04, often appeared to be reinventing the possibilities of the game. Like Arsenal 04, should really have won the Big One.

5. Chelsea 2005: A then-record points total, shattering the United-Arsenal duopoly and signalling a new power in English football. Every Chelsea trophy over the next decade stems from this one.

Bottom 5
(Again, this isn’t necessarily the worst teams or the least memorable — just the most ‘meh.’ And any team who retained the title automatically disqualifies themselves from this list.)

1. Chelsea, 2017: They racked up 93 points but that’s hardly unusual in this era. Did nothing in Europe, and lousily the following season.

2. Chelsea, 2015: Honestly, this is not an attack on Chelsea but this title is most notable for the implosion that followed. The 2017 title does somewhat burnish the legacy.

3. Man United, 2013: Fergie’s last season, otherwise these guys would probably be ‘Top’ of this list. Yet historical significance is theirs, whether deserved or not.

4. Man United, 2011: Got to the Champions League final, so props for that — especially as they might well be the worst team on here.

5. Man City, 2014: It was a great season but largely because of Liverpool. Fell off a cliff the following year, too. Very fine team though, probably better than the most celebrated 2012 vintage.

The outlier is Leicester, 2016 — you could make a case for putting them top of both lists. Which feels rather appropriate. Looking forward to being torn apart in the comments.
Max, CPFC (so no bias!)

Johnny Nic: Scrappy title in sorry season does little for Man Utd brand

John Nicholson’s piece on Man United is just pure genius. He has ingeniously and undoubtedly fulfilled his purpose of generating revenue for this website from us, the ‘units of revenue’. His modus operandi – provocation. By suggesting that United might win the title this year in an altogether unconvincing manner, he has covered possibly not just the sizable and seemingly savvy ‘brand aware’ Man United following, but also supporters of other clubs in this incredible article.

Personally though, I appreciate that such an article even exists. Three months ago, the mere mention of Man United and title contenders in the same sentence was inconceivable. Now apparently, just winning the title isn’t good enough. It has to be exciting and in accordance with our brand messaging, lest we lose our status as a (get this!) ‘premium product placed at eyeline on the gondola of the global football supermarket’.

The Man United fans I know of, and I’m sure JN knows this couldn’t care less how we win the title. We didn’t under SAF, and we won’t under Ole. And how bizarre a suggestion it is that a title win could somehow dilute a club’s ‘brand value’. Not just any title win, but one achieved after nearly a decade of being, as he describes, ‘losers’. JN has certainly achieved his purpose in writing this piece – I’ve clicked on it and now I’m writing into the mailbox.
MM, Man United, India

The transfer record progression of every Premier League club

Terrified of United
I read some mails this morning and today and i have to agree with most Utd fans that there is a certain lack of respect toward them.

When we started dropping points, and Utd had a couple of games in hand that if they won (which they did) they would be very close to us, I started listening to podcasts about Liverpool. Back then and even now, people seem convinced that Utd are nothing to worry about, and that they will fade back into CL qualifying places.

Am I the only one who is terrified? Utd being this close to us is a nightmare and it seems they can do no wrong at the moment. forget the CL expulsion, or the League cup semi against City, in the league they are in hell of a form.

Yes City are our closest rivals, but Utd are in it for now, and I hope Liverpool players treat this as the top of the table clash it is.
NIk (pumped to have them in FA cup too), Munich


Credit due?
Just to everyone who is itching for United to get more credit than they are getting, note that the same points total last season has us 3rd and 13 points off top last season. The year before we would have been 5th!

I’m a United fan and loving how things are going, but the fact is we aren’t performing to the level of a title winning team in normal times. Hence we won’t get the credit other teams in previous years have gotten.

Either way who cares if we get credit. Why the need for validation from other fans (trolls?) and pundits? All that matters is we are playing well, look better than we have since Fergie left and have a shot at winning the title. That’s all I care about.
Nishul Saperia (my money would be on City if I had to bet still)


Lucky United
So all the talk about ‘foals finding their footing’ and ‘the performance of a title contending side’ has pushed me into a response. Yes, Man U are in a much better position than their performances suggested 2 or 3 months ago but elite football can often be determined by the finest of margins and were it not for a little bit of luck the table could be looking a lot different than it is.

Man U have won each of the last 3 PL matches by 1 goal by virtue of a deflection, a dodgy penalty, a deflection (those things don’t happen and Man U are 1 point clear of 7th placed Southampton)

Liverpool (admittedly whilst playing poorly) have dropped 5 points in their last 3 matches from a goal scored by a defender being climbed on v WBA and penalties not given for Mane vs Newcastle and Southampton

That’s an 11 point swing so let’s not get carried away boys and girls, there’s a long way to go in the season for things to revert to the mean. Starting with Sunday….actually, they haven’t had a pen for 3 matches including the cup games, maybe that will revert to the mean first.
James Outram, Wirral (we’ll do them regardless of complimentary pens)


Never change
There was a moment, a glimpse, a chance, a flash when we thought that having won the Premier League after however many years, the Liverpool fan would stop whinging.
But that moment passed.
Now we see that they are hard done by, that referees are all part of a Trumpian conspiracy to give United the title by not giving free kicks or giving unwarranted penalties, or booking the right/wrong people, or teams trying harder (it happens when you are Champions, as United knew for 20 years), or other managers are also involved in the dark room discussions.
So the sociological experiment is complete, even when they win the Liverpool fan is a moaning complaining eijit!


Back of the net

Thought I’d not read anything about “LFC Net Spend” on here in a while but did Dale (Unconscious bias at best, corruption at worst) Marlow just invent the concepts of “LFC Net Free-kicks”, “LFC Net Fouls” and “LFC Net Penalties”?

Please God, we’re dealing with Covid…give us a break!
Mr F’kin Grumpy Pants, Rochdale

Five academy graduates that would benefit from a January move

Steady with Eddie
In general I agree with Naz, Gooner, assessment about Arteta’s thoughts on taking a carving knife to the Arsenal squad.

I hope though he doesn’t let Eddie Nketiah leave the club. This kid has a phenomenal scoring record and I have always thought he produces more in a match than say, Lacazette does.

If we let him go to Palace or West Ham I can see him scoring the winning the goal in a cup game against us and then getting a big money move to Man United and go on to have a glittering career.

Keep Nketiah and turn him into the top class striker he has the potential to become. What a project that is.

Matt, Gooner in Essex

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