Ole Gunnar Solskjaer heaped praise on Bruno Fernandes after making such an outstanding impact during his first year at Manchester United.
Saturday marks the first anniversary of the Portuguese playmaker’s arrival at Old Trafford, where he has comfortably surpassed expectations since joining from Sporting in his homeland.
Nobody has scored more for a Premier League club than Fernandes since his debut, netting 28 goals in all competitions and providing the assist for 17 more.
The 26-year-old’s form shows few signs of abating and Solskjaer could not have asked any more from the fiercely-competitive playmaker.
“Brilliant,” the United boss said of Fernandes’ impact. “From day one he’s come in and wanted to affect the environment, the playing environment, the staff. He’s been a great addition.
“He’s such a humble human being, working hard and I think everyone has seen what he’s done on the pitch.
“Very pleased with his first year and long may it continue. The higher up in the league, the more pressure there will be on us and on him.
“Now the limelight is on him but I’m sure he’ll handle that pressure fine.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 24, 2021
“He’s got his opinion, he’s a winner. He’s not just going to let a game pass away and talk about it after. He wants to affect it there and then.
“He’s so passionate about winning and he knows his football, he knows his stuff. He watches every single game there is on telly, especially the big games.
“And if you ask him ‘did you watch that last night?’ he’s always seen the game, so he’s going to make the most of his career, that’s for sure.”
Fernandes is bloody-minded in his drive for success at Old Trafford, where his transformative impact has been likened to that of Eric Cantona.
So impressive he has been that some have suggested that the team struggles when he is not firing.
“Bruno has come in and helped the team, no doubt about that,” Solskjaer said in response to such talk.
“He’s come in at a time when we needed his type of player and Bruno came into a team that makes his attributes and skills come to fruition.
“He’s come to a team that suits him and he suits the team, so that goes hand in hand.
“If the players don’t run, Bruno can’t play his passes. If Bruno doesn’t play his passes, the players can’t run.
“He’s part of a chain here and I’m sure that Bruno will say that he also appreciates his team-mates and that they help him through games.”
Solskjaer says Fernandes and his team-mates are ready for Saturday evening’s clash with improving Arsenal, who beat United at Old Trafford on November 1.
That was their last Premier League loss until Wednesday’s shock 2-1 defeat to rock-bottom Sheffield United, which led to horrific racist abuse being aimed at Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial on social media.
Solskjaer spoke to the pair to check on them after the sickening bile sent their way and thinks they are OK, with the United boss calling for social media platforms to do more to halt these all too frequent attacks.
Martial saw a goal harshly ruled out in the first half against the Blades and the Norwegian, who knows a thing or two about scoring for the club, has no doubt the France forward will soon start regularly finding the net again.
“Keep working, keep working,” Solskjaer said. “He’s improved his fitness, he’s probably improved by 10-15 per cent from when I came – his running distance, his sprint distance. Keep using that.
“Like everyone, we’ve improved and his talent will always take him through. I’ve got no doubt about that whatsoever.
“Yes, he’s missed a couple of chances and that happens to everyone.
“It’s just being ready when the chance, for example, tomorrow comes. Just be mentally ready.
“Don’t be frustrated, I’ve been there myself going through patches where you don’t really score goals and suddenly (you do).
“He keeps practicing in training so we know how good he is and we know he’ll come good.”