One Year Of Fernandes Transforms Man United From Title Pretenders To Contenders

File photo: Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes celebrates scoring during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 17, 2020. Alex Pantling / POOL / AF

 

 

Manchester United may have surrendered top spot in the Premier League with a shock home defeat to bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United, but the fact the Red Devils are even involved in a title race is testament to Bruno Fernandes’s first 12 months at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men travel to Arsenal on Saturday a year to the day since the Portuguese midfielder joined a side languishing 30 points off the top in fifth place.

Solskjaer’s days in charge looked numbered after a toxic response from the home support to a 2-0 defeat to Burnley in United’s final league game before Fernandes’s arrival.

In 52 appearances, the 26-year-old has scored 28 goals and provided 18 assists, earning comparisons to Eric Cantona’s talismanic turnaround in United’s fortunes.

solskjaer-man-united
File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (C), FC Copenhagen’s Greek midfielder Zeca and Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes react at the end of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match between Manchester United and FC Copenhagen at the RheinEnergieStadion, in Cologne, western Germany, on August 10, 2020.
WOLFGANG RATTAY / AFP / POOL

 

Over the past year, no team has taken more Premier League points than United.

However, Fernandes’s impact goes beyond the stats.

For a side badly in need of a leader, the former Sporting Lisbon captain has come to the fore, demanding that others match his standards.

READ ALSO: Man Utd Title Hopes Hit By Sheffield United Defeat

“I don’t do anything like saying ‘I want to be a leader or I want to do things in a different way to someone’, it’s the natural way I have. It’s something that’s in my game,” said Fernandes.

“For me the point is helping everyone with my voice when I can and also with my energy and everything I do in the game to help the team.”

That has led to on-pitch rebukes of his teammates and frustration at Solskjaer whenever he is substituted or rested.

But it is also a commitment to excellence has often been missing from United in the eight years since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson retired.

“He’s never happy with me when I tell him to go inside after training when he’s playing the next day so he got some practice yesterday,” said Solskjaer after Fernandes came off the bench to score the winner with a stunning free-kick against Liverpool in the FA Cup last weekend.

“When you leave him out like I did today, he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks so I was pretty confident he could score one if he got the chance.”

The most successful club in English football history when it comes to league titles have not even competed for one since Ferguson’s departure.

“My mentality, my way to be in my life and football is about winning,” said Fernandes this week.

“I don’t conform with losing games is normal stuff. For me, losing is not normal so my mentality comes from that.”

 

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) celebrates scoring their second goal with Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester United at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on June 30, 2020. Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP
File photo: Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) celebrates scoring their second goal with Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester United at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on June 30, 2020.
Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP

 

United had not suffered defeat in the league for 13 games stretching back to November until they were blunted by the Blades in midweek.

Manchester City have moved into the pole position at the top of the table with an ominous run for the other challengers of 11 consecutive wins in all competitions.

If United are to remain in the race, a return to winning ways is needed at the Emirates on Saturday, where they have lost on their two previous visits under Solskjaer.

Those defeats came prior to Fernandes’s arrival. In the past year, United have undoubtedly progressed, but without trophies to show for it.

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) shakes hands with FC Copenhagen’s Greek midfielder Zeca, next to Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes at the end of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match between Manchester United and FC Copenhagen at the RheinEnergieStadion, in Cologne, western Germany, on August 10, 2020. (Photo by WOLFGANG RATTAY / various sources / AFP)

 

Solskjaer’s men have lost four cup semi-finals in the past two seasons and crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages in December.

“I come to the club because I knew I will come to a club who wants to win everything,” Fernandes said on the attraction United still holds for top players.

A four-year drought without any silverware is too long for a club of United’s size, but it is thanks to Fernandes they are at least now contenders.

AFP

Euro 2016: Giroud Hopes To Emulate 1998, 2000 Heroes

Giroud, Euro 2016Arsenal striker, Olivier Giroud, hopes to become the latest in a long line of great French strikers to fire his country to glory at this summer’s European Championship.

The 29-year-old enters the tournament as Les Bleus’ leading scorer with 17 goals, including three in their warm-up games against Cameroon and Scotland.

Giroud grew up watching Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and would love to emulate their success on home soil.

“I was only 11 [in 1998] and it was one of my best memories as a fan of the French national team,” he told Arsenal Player.

“It was fantastic for all the French people to win the World Cup, especially at home. That’s why we want to make our French fans proud this summer.

“It was the continuity of the World Cup (when they went to Euro 2000). They confirmed their great form and almost kept the exact same squad. It is always difficult to win again two years afterwards, but they did very well with a fantastic scenario against Italy at the end of the final.

“I remember the pass from Robert Pires to Sylvain Wiltord, and then the pass to David Trezeguet who found the top-left corner. I couldn’t forget this goal.

“I also remember watching David Ginola, Eric Cantona, Jean-Pierre Papin and strikers like that. I was looking to become a striker. I remember very good players like them, and also Thierry Henry, Trezeguet and Anelka too. We’ve always had very good strikers.

“It’s a great feeling (to be representing France in front of our home fans) and we’re all looking forward to that.

“We want to do well in front of our own fans so we’re going to do everything we can to bring the trophy back home.”

Dubai club sacks Maradona

Former Argentina’s World Cup winning captain, Diego Maradona has been sacked from his role as manager of United Arab Emirates, side Al Wasl after 14 months in charge.

The legendary Argentinian’s position had been in doubt since June when the club’s entire board resigned following a trophy less season.

Maradona, 51, joined Al Wasl in May 2011 and still had a year to run on his contract.

He leaves after a disappointing league campaign which saw Al Wasl finish eight  in the league.

“Following a meeting held by the board of directors of Al Wasl football company held to evaluate the technical staff of Al Wasl under the leadership of coach Diego Maradona, it was decided to terminate the services of coach Diego Maradona and his technical staff,” read a statement from the club.

Maradona, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986, made headlines in March this year when he acted in a similar manner to Eric Cantona’s famous attack on opposition fans.

During Al Wasl’s 2-0 UAE Pro League defeat at Al Shabab, he is understood to have climbed up into the stands to protect his wife after fans allegedly started abusing players’ wives and girlfriends.

Maradona had been brought in to help boost Al Wasl’s profile, both on and off the pitch, yet they finished 29 points behind champions Al Ain.