Bruno Fernandes is delighted to welcome a leader like Raphael Varane into the Manchester United ranks but has emphasised the fact that the club has a wealth of options at centre-back.
Varane did not start the defeat to Young Boys in the opening Champions League tie in Group F for the Reds but looks likely to be in the XI for Wednesday’s visit of Villarreal, particularly with skipper Harry Maguire a doubt due to the injury that forced him off against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be forced to make changes in defence with Aaron Wan-Bissaka suspended and Luke Shaw also withdrawn due to a problem sustained against the Villans but Fernandes, speaking in the official match programme for the clash with the Yellow Submarine, knows there is real strength in depth at the heart of the back four, with Varane a quality addition from Real Madrid over the summer.
“Of course, he’s a winner,” declared Bruno to United Review. “Everyone knows that. He’s a nice guy and works really hard and is always pushing everyone to do better.
“I think he has a great mentality but, at the same time, we cannot forget the other players. Rapha has been brilliant, but Victor [Lindelof] has had an amazing, brilliant beginning to the season. Eric [Bailly] comes later because of the Olympic Games, but he’s a player we trust a lot. ‘H’ [Harry Maguire] we already know is doing really well.
“At the same time, we have Phil [Jones] coming back to start playing with the Under-23s – we are really happy to have him back after a long, long stop for him. It’s been difficult for him, being out of the team for a long time.
“Rapha is really important for us, and has been really important for us. But the main point is everyone being okay to do the best that they can. In football, we all have different qualities, and Rapha has different qualities to Victor, H, Eric and Phil, but they can all add different things.
“Still he’s a little bit shy in some ways, because it’s the beginning for him at United, but I think he’s a leader. I think he can help in that part of the game.”
Bruno Fernandes trudged off Old Trafford not even being able to look at or acknowledge the fans that absolutely adore him, that’s how disappointed he was with himself after missing the penalty against Aston Villa.
But the character and determination to atone for his error should worry Villarreal because they could well be on the receiving end of a Bruno masterclass.
However, even on days where Fernandes misses from the spot, his influence on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will never waver, he still created 10 chances for his teammates against Villa.
The beauty of having Fernandes in your side is that he has so many different ways of punishing teams.
Whether it’s goals, assists, penalties, free kicks, you name it, Fernandes usually delivers.
He can produce long raking passes, but he can also see a deft little pass which he can thread through the eye of the needle.
One area that Fernandes is currently excelling in better than anyone in Europe’s top five leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) according to FBref is through balls.
The football statistics site defines a through ball as a completed pass sent between back defenders into open space.
United’s number 18 has registered six through balls in the Premier League so far this season, which is one more than the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin, Bruno Guimaraes and Romelu Lukaku.
With United going through a testing period, having players like Fernandes who want to shoulder the responsibility of the team on his shoulders is advantageous.
When things get tough, Fernandes doesn’t go missing, in fact he wants to have more of an influence because he wants to lead his team from the front.
With United possessing the best through ball passer of the ball in Europe, it’s only a matter of time before Solskjaer’s team start dishing out some hidings to teams once again.