For so long, Bruno Fernandes was the undisputed superstar at Manchester United. But this summer changed that with the arrival of a certain fellow Portuguese.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming was a dream come true, and he already has five goals in his second spell at Old Trafford. But his return has seen a slight drop-off from Fernandes.
The midfielder was in scintillating form on the opening day, scoring three in a 5-1 victory. Since then, Fernandes has just one goal.
Of course, that does not tell the whole story. Two of those games came before CR7’s arrival, while Fernandes has provided assists in two Champions League games and against Everton last time out.
He is certainly playing well. But he is not playing at his best. And that is where the challenge comes in. If the 27-year-old can play to his full potential – as he has so often at United – the club could see one of their greatest ever partnerships.
Given Ronaldo’s standing, both at Old Trafford and in the game at large – Fernandes was always going to take time to rediscover his place.
The play-maker is the closest United have had to Eric Cantona since the man himself. But the Frenchman was very much the star attraction, given free rein to do as he pleased.
Now that honour has gone to Ronaldo. So what next for Fernandes?
Fernandes can rise to Ronaldo level
The simple fact is, as the pair train regularly week in, week out (rather than just at international level) their partnership is only going to get better.
Some have argued that Fernandes’ impact is negated by Ronaldo, with the former struggling at Euro 2020. But he is good enough to step fully out of the 36-year-old’s shadow and, from there, anything is possible.
United’s £67.7million signing (BBC) will return from the international break with the bit between his teeth. It was Fernandes who said the club’s recent performances have not been good enough. Now he and his teammates must kick on.
At times Fernandes has been simply unplayable to United. Now he needs to do that alongside Ronaldo. If he does, the result could be explosive.