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Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United: Where will he fit in?
Last Updated: 31/01/20 1:25pm
Manchester United have completed the signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon, but where will he fit into the team?
The 25-year-old's future had been the subject of intense speculation throughout the January transfer window.
United confirmed on Wednesday evening they had reached an agreement to sign the Portugal international in a deal worth up to £68m and the biggest transfer of the January window has now been announced.
Here, we take a look at what Fernandes will bring to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side and where he will fit into the team.
What Fernandes brings
During his two-and-a-half-year spell at Sporting Lisbon, Fernandes scored 64 goals in 137 appearances in all competitions. It's a hugely impressive total for an attacking midfielder, and the statistics show he was similarly effective in terms of creativity.
Fernandes created more chances (239) than any other player during his time in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. His total of 28 assists was the second highest and he also ranked second for big chances created (31) and final third passes (1,364). No player completed more through-balls (17).
Fernandes is a direct player who likes to take on defenders and take risks in possession rather than play it safe. This can be seen in his passing sonar, which shows that the vast majority of his passes are directed forwards - despite the fact that he usually operates high up the pitch.
Fernandes had more shots on goal than any other player in the Primeira Liga during his time with Sporting and offers a considerable threat from long range, with nine of his 39 league goals coming from outside the box.
It's another asset United will aim to harness in the Premier League.
An upgrade at No 10
Fernandes is a versatile right-footer who has been used in various positions during his time at Sporting, but the majority of his minutes this season have come at No 10 and that's certainly the most obvious position for him to slot into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's favoured 4-2-3-1 line-up.
Solskjaer's most used players in that position this season have been Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, but in a combined total of 29 appearances at No 10 in all competitions, they have only contributed three goals and five assists between them.
As such, creativity has become a major issue for United, who do not have a single player among the top 20 for chances created in the Premier League this season. Liverpool and Manchester City, by contrast, have three representatives each, while Chelsea have two.
Fernandes will be coming into a far more testing environment than he is accustomed to - it is unrealistic to expect him to replicate his Primeira Liga output in the Premier League - but he has experience of adapting to different surroundings having spent time in Italy and still offers a considerable upgrade on Manchester United's current options at No 10.
He would get plenty of shooting opportunities from the No 10 position, and in Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, he would also have three perfect targets for his final-third passes and through balls.
A different option in midfield
Fernandes is also comfortable when operating in a more withdrawn midfield role, where he is able to help build up the play from deep as well as contribute in the attacking third.
Manchester United could therefore use him on the right-hand side of a midfield three in a 4-3-3 formation.
Fernandes is naturally inclined to drift towards that side of the pitch, as shown by his heatmap, but this role would also demand a greater defensive contribution. Thankfully for United, that is unlikely to be an issue for Fernandes, who is known for his work-rate as well as his attacking qualities.
Deploying Fernandes in midfield in a 4-3-3 could also be an effective way of simultaneously allowing Paul Pogba to play in his favoured left-sided position. The Frenchman has barely featured this season due to injuries, but Solskjaer has said he is "desperate" to get back into the side, implying that he may yet have a future at the club despite recent speculation.
The view from Portugal
"Bruno Fernandes is a player who covers all the bases, defensively and offensively," Felipe Dias, editor of O Jogo newspaper, told Sky Sports News.
"From centre midfield onwards, he can do anything. He's got a long-range shot. He can take free kicks and penalties.
"His scoring ability is second to none. In 20 years of journalism, I have never seen a midfield player score goals like that. It's astounding.
"Okay, we are talking about domestic Portuguese football and the Europa League, but when you are the best you can deliver anywhere. This is a top, top player."
How to follow the transfer window with Sky Sports
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Start your day with Good Morning Transfers at 9am as our team of reporters bring you the latest news and insight. Transfer Talk then follows at midday delivering analysis of the biggest stories. Then join us at 7pm for the definitive round-up of the day's news with The Transfer Show.
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