News Live Scores
Transfers

Why are Manchester United the only big club in for Bruno Fernandes?

11:00 GMT 16/01/2020
Bruno Fernandes Sporting Man Utd GFX
The Sporting CP midfielder is being touted as a world-class talent and yet no other major teams are trying to sign the 25-year-old

Bruno Fernandes is close to joining Manchester United but there are reasonable questions to be asked of his proposed transfer from Sporting CP.

The 25-year-old Portuguese was previously tipped to relocate to England last summer but no move materialised. The asking price was said to be anywhere between £60 million ($78m) and £80 million ($91) but, whatever it was, it was not low enough to tempt either Tottenham or United into doing a deal.

Since then, things have changed at both clubs.

Most dramatically of all, Spurs replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho in November. Their new boss has never been averse to bringing in a player linked with his 'super-agent' Jorge Mendes, who appears to have got himself involved in the Fernandes affair.

However, Spurs instead decided to sign another Fernandes, Gedson, of Benfica, to solve their midfield problems. Christian Eriksen, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is likely to depart for Inter in order to make way for the new arrival.

While Spurs are addressing their own transfer issues in midfield, United have seen their circumstances worsen.

For one, there was the injury to Scott McTominay. The 23-year-old Scot has been United’s best midfielder all season, but a ligament problem has ruled him out for a couple of months.

Added to that is Paul Pogba’s constant agitation for a move away. By far the side’s most talented individual, he is evidently not keen on sticking around at Old Trafford if he is afforded the chance to move elsewhere. For now, he is stuck in Manchester but is forced to sit on the sidelines due to surgery.

These injuries have played a part in United's willingness to take a gamble on Fernandes. But there are other factors.

United languish in fifth place in the Premier League. While they are just five points behind Chelsea in fourth, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have been thoroughly unconvincing in their attempts to reel in an inconsistent and relatively inexperienced Blues squad.

This is a race that United can ill afford to lose. There are tens of millions of pounds at stake in terms of revenue, while securing a return to the Champions League would significantly boost United's hopes of recruiting world-class players this summer.

Ed Woodward and Matt Judge would have a better chance of convincing top talents that they could fill their trophy cabinets by joining United – and not just their bank accounts.

There’s another reason why United are so keen to increase their chances of a top-four finish by bringing in Fernandes now.

Woodward has found his position as executive vice-chairman come under pressure. And not just from the fans, but potentially within the Glazer family too.

The supporters are sick of Woodward’s underperformance, the scattergun transfer policy and organisational changes. The owners will also be aware that the increases in revenue have started to stagnate.

Woodward’s position should be under threat not just because he can't win over Old Trafford, but because his methods simply do not earn his bosses as much money as others could. A successful signing could spur United on to further success and improve his standing in the press, with the owners, and with supporters.

However, whether Fernandes is the right signing remains to be seen. United had reservations over acquiring the Portugal international during the summer. He was thought to give the ball away too much and to take too many risks in attacking positions.

In the end, United didn't deem Fernandes worth the money. So, it was hardly surprising that Daniel Levy also baulked at such an exorbitant fee. He elected to take Giovani Lo Celso on loan with a view to a permanent transfer for a player who was younger than Fernandes at 23 and who had been playing at a higher level in Spain.

Tellingly, no other top Premier League sides were interested. Pep Guardiola prefers his Manchester City players to keep the ball and exhaust opponents, meaning Fernandes' high-risk approach wasn't conducive to the Catalan's tactics.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp's midfield three are required to link attack and defence in a way that Fernandes is not required to do at Sporting. There are, therefore, sensible financial and tactical explanations for Fernandes remaining on the shelf.

However, while other sides have their reasons to not act, none of them find themselves in United's position; on the verge of panic, with the fans turning against the administrative figurehead and the owners. They could be about to go yet another year without Champions League football and sponsors could look to other clubs for a better return on investment.

With United managing to beat Wolves in their FA Cup replay at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, there is perhaps one more reason for making such a big move in the January market.

Marcus Rashford managed only a brief cameo before exiting with another injury. Jesse Lingard was introduced as his replacement and may be relied upon as United see their fixture list become increasingly congested.

The biggest reason that United have to move for Fernandes is that they are simply desperate for both numbers and quality. Fernandes is that rare thing.

He is a player who still has room in which to improve – a prerequisite for any Glazer purchase. He is available after Sporting hit financial trouble and they are willing to do a deal, which makes life easier for Judge and Woodward.

He also operates in the very position in which United are so sorely lacking, the kind of dynamic midfielder who could come in and lead a team has been rudderless for too long.