'Fernandes staying fit must be Man Utd's New Year's wish!' - Red Devils are reliant on 'unbelievable' midfielder, says Meulensteen

Bruno Fernandes, Man Utd, Premier League 2020-21
A former Old Trafford assistant coach does not think Paul Pogba or Donny van de Beek would be able to fill the void if the Portuguese is sidelined

Rene Meulensteen says Bruno Fernandes staying fit must be Manchester United's "New Year's wish", with it his belief that the Red Devils have become reliant on the "unbelievable" midfielder.

Fernandes has been a revelation at Old Trafford since his €55 million (£50m/$67m) move from Sporting CP at the start of the year.

The Portugal international instantly adjusted to the demands of Premier League football, helping United finish third in the 2019-20 table, while also inspiring their run to both the FA Cup and Europa League semi-finals.

The 26-year-old's contribution has only increased in the first half of the Red Devils' latest campaign, as he boasts 14 goals and eight assists from his last 22 outings across all competitions, including a trademark finish in a 2-2 draw at Leicester City on Saturday.

Fernandes has been involved in 52 per cent of United's top-flight goals since making his debut, and is the first Portuguese player to reach double figures in the competition in a single season since a certain Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2008-09.

Only Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich frontman Robert Lewandowski boast more direct goal contributions than Fernandes in Europe's top five leagues since February, with Meulensteen blown away by the impact he's had in Manchester over the past 11 months.

"I think United can only have one New Year’s wish and that’s for Fernandes not to get injured or suspended," the former Red Devils assistant coach told Stadium Astro.

"His energy is unbelievable. Look at this goal again – it’s absolutely fantastic. The timing of the run and ball from Edinson Cavani is fantastic.

"As soon as Fernandes gets on the ball the likes of Marcus Rashford are on their way. Fernandes is just so, so important for United.

"He gives them rhythm, he’s a winner, he’s a leader, he creates assists and he scores goals."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have emerged as surprise title contenders with Fernandes pulling the strings in the middle of the park, but Meulensteen doesn't think they would be able to sustain their recent form without him.

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"They have other players that can go in that position like Pogba or Donny van de Beek but they don’t have the same impact as him," he added.

"I’m so impressed by his energy levels. He’s not afraid to work hard. He’s always trying to hurt the opposition with a pass in behind, he’s not afraid to shoot from distance.

"It’s a player that United rely on heavily. I’m sure that if he wasn’t there it would have an effect on United’s form."