Football News

Man Utd must build around Bruno Fernandes, says Juan Mata

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 13:00, 29 April 2024

Juan Mata believes Manchester United’s culture should be built around Bruno Fernandes.

The former Red Devil, who is currently unattached, spent nine seasons at Old Trafford, during which time he lined up 29 times alongside Fernandes, who currently serves as Man Utd’s captain.

Since belatedly joining from Sporting in January 2020, the Portuguese maestro has gone on to register 64 assists and score 79 goals across 230 appearances for the record 20-time English champions.

In fact, he’s scored 52 goals since his top-flight debut in February 2020 more than any other Man Utd player during this period.

During a recent interview on the ESPN FC show, Mata was asked if a player on the current team has a personality similar to those of their glory days under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

“I can tell you that for me, there is a great leader in there right now, which is the captain, Bruno,” he said

“I should tell to all young players to look up to him. I cannot tell you how important he is for the club and not only because of what he’s done in the last games, scoring two goals and winning the game [against Sheffield United], but his consistency within the years that he’s been playing for the club is just incredible.

“He’s a top, top player, but he’s even better as a person. So for me, the culture of the club should be built around him. He’s a great example for all the new generation, the players that are playing now for the team, [Alejandro] Garnacho, [Kobbie] Mainoo, [Rasmus] Højlund, to look up to him the way he trains, the way he behaves.

“For me, he’s the one that is always there for the team. He can play better or worse, but he’s always there with the right attitude. And for me, that’s what being a Manchester United player is.”

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Despite their recent struggles, Erik ten Hag’s men have failed to win five of their last six Premier League games (four draws and one loss); Fernandes has been a bright spot. He’s registered seven goals and two assists in his last six matches.

Furthermore, he’s created 108 chances in the Premier League this season, more than any other player. Indeed, he’s the seventh player on record (since 2003-04) to create 100+ in consecutive seasons in the competition and the first since Kevin De Bruyne in 2017-18.

Speaking of whom, earlier this season, Manchester City creator-in-chief De Bruyne was asked to rank his favourite creative midfielders to watch in England’s top division. Out of choice between Bruno Fernandes, James Maddison and Martin Ødegaard, the Belgian put his neighbour in the top spot.

“I think he’s a creative machine, in general,” he told Sky Sports. “Ødegaard is very creative but a little bit more controlled. Maddison is also really creative but I need to see more of him in a big team.

“He’s [Fernandes] been doing it for such a long time. Ødegaard was amazing last year, but obviously, he’s younger, so that’s a difference.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he knows what he’s talking about. Only Mohamed Salah (21) has created more Big Chances in the Premier League this season than Fernandes (20), but no one has played more passes into the opposition box.

United’s captain also ranks third in the Expected Assists chart with 9.92 behind Arsenal duo Martin Ødegaard (10.07) and Bukayo Saka (10.22).