Manchester United had to take a chance on a highlight player if it wants to creep into the Premier League top four.
Bruno Fernandes is finally a Manchester United player after nearly a year of speculation, costing a reported £47 million from Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese midfielder will be instantly tasked with saving United’s season and propelling his new club into the top four. Fernandes’ stats suggest he has massive boom-or-bust potential, but given United’s current situation, a high-stakes gamble is the right thing to do.
United has been a chore to watch for most of this season. The club was sorely lacking for creativity in midfield even when Paul Pogba was available, and it has been moribund while he’s been injured. Attacking midfielders Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard, in particular, have been taking abuse from United fans in recent weeks. It’s clear at this point that neither is good enough to be a No. 10 for a top-four team in the Premier League.
Enter Fernandes, who has a chance to fill the most glaring hole in United’s lineup. He’s a bonafide attacking midfielder who has tallied 39 goals and 30 assists in the Portuguese Liga over the last two-and-a-half seasons with Sporting Lisbon. Importantly, he’s the type of player who can create something out of nothing and provide a spark.
Fernandes is perhaps the best highlights player in the world today. I mean that in a slightly derogatory way, but I’ll elaborate later. Here’s 18 minutes of tricks and long range bangers, if you’re into that sort of thing.
This season, he has stepped up his creative output considerably without toning down his shooting at all. He is still above 90th percentile for shots attempted by an attacking midfielder or winger in the Portuguese Liga, but he’s now the best player in the league when it comes to open play Expected Goals assisted. He’s creating clear-cut chances for his teammates at a much higher volume than he did previously.
But there are drawbacks to Fernandes’ game that likely explain why United reportedly didn’t have a lot of competition for his services. A £47 million fee for a player with Fernandes’ goal and assist numbers is a bargain in today’s transfer market, but those numbers come from an exceptionally high rate of low-percentage plays. Fernandes is middle of the pack in passing percentage, and well below average in Expected Goals per shot.
His passing sonar shows a ridiculously high average passing length, in addition to a lot of incomplete passes. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will probably ask Fernandes to keep it simple a liiiiiittle more often. Fernandes is all about attempting Hollywood balls.