Bruno Fernandes continues to star at Manchester United but Rafa Benitez has revealed that the Portuguese playmaker could have been at Newcastle were it not for a frustrating court case.
The Magpies noted the potential in a talented midfielder while he was still making a name for himself at Sporting.
Premier League interest was building at that stage, but those at St James’ Park sought to force their way to the front of a transfer queue.
Discussions were opened, and progressing positively, but the North East outfit walked away once a number of obstacles were placed in their path.
Benitez was their manager at that time, with the Spaniard lifting the lid on what might have been for the Magpies when it comes to the proven performer taking English football by storm at Old Trafford.
“Bruno Fernandes was a player we were following at Newcastle United,” Benitez told The Times.
“He was at Sporting Lisbon and he had an issue with his club. There was a chance he could leave on a free. We were progressing but the problem was that the matter would go to court and that would complicate it. The club didn’t want that.
“He has been crucial for United. He changed everything with the way he is playing — assists and goals. He has personality. He tries to look for the right passes. In recent games, I saw him going to press with determination and intensity.”
Fernandes, who has set a new record when it comes to Premier League Player of the Month awards, is set to take in his next appearance for United against Liverpool.
Ex-Reds boss Benitez is expecting an intriguing contest between two arch-rivals piecing together title challenges in 2020-21, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side having clambered above Jurgen Klopp’s defending champions.
“These games are very complicated,” said Benitez.
“I have the feeling that Liverpool can do well, but I have to be honest, and Manchester United have been doing well in recent games. It will be 50-50, or 60-40 with my heart.
“If you have problems in defence you have to try to protect that area by staying more compact but, at the same time, your style is to press and push the other team. You have to take risks.
“The problem with Manchester United is they have some pace up front and you have to be sure not to let them run easily behind your defenders.”