Bruno Fernandes season review: Manchester United's best player can still get better
Bruno Fernandes’ season at Manchester United was one defined by individual brilliance without the silverware to show for it.
All the goals and assists in the world count for little when the team ultimately fall short.
United’s lack of silverware should not take away from Fernandes’ contribution, which saw him finish the season as the club’s top goalscorer.
What was his situation heading into the season?
Fernandes entered the season on a high after winning the club’s 2019/20 player of the season award after just half a season.
There was some scepticism from outside the club as to whether he would be able to maintain that form, or whether he would fade.
How did 2020/21 go?
Fernandes’ first full season at Manchester United saw him answer almost every question which was thrown at him.
He finished as United’s top goalscorer, netting more league goals than any Red Devils player in the past five years, and breaking Frank Lampard’s record for a Premier League midfielder.
Fernandes’ creativity saw him end the season with 94 chances created in the Premier League, more than any other player.
According to FBRef.com, Fernandes also ranked number one for goal creating actions, and expected assists.
Fernandes’ campaign mixed in spectacular goals like his volley against West Brom and his goal of the season strike against Everton.
One of the most memorable moments in Fernandes’ season was his penalty winner against Brighton, in which he scored after the final whistle had been blown. The goal came in the 10th minute of injury time after a VAR check, and will live long in the memory due to it’s unique circumstance, with United sealing a 3-2 win.
Fernandes’ most satisfying goal was his free-kick winner against Liverpool, the game sealing strike in a 3-2 victory, handing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his first win over Jurgen Klopp.
Other standout performances include his two goals and two assists in United’s 6-2 win over Roma, and his brace in an away win at Everton.
Captaining United to an away win over PSG was also a personal highlight for him.
The lowpoint for Fernandes came in the Europa League final, in which he was too easily nullified. To lose while captaining the side in a final was a memory he would rather forget.
The loss was not all down to Fernandes, it was partly down to Solskjaer’s tactics, which left him too isolated against a team which were too happy to drop deep, but the United midfielder must bear some reponsibility.
In other games against Chelsea and Arsenal Fernandes was similarly stifled, and also in the home game against Liverpool, while he also missed a late chance to secure a win away at Anfield.
Fernandes also had a lean stretch between February and April where he scored just two goals in 16 matches.
What were the standout numbers?
28 goals and 18 assists speak for themselves, United could not have asked for more.
This was the highest goal tally for a midfielder in Europe this season, and the highest assist numbers too.
He now has 40 United goals in 80 games for the club, a return befitting a striker, not a midfielder.
Next step in 2021/22?
Fernandes can produce in big moments, he showed this against Roma and the FA Cup win over Liverpool, but he needs to do it more often.
In terms of goals it is going to be hard for Fernandes to top his 28 goals from the past season, but you know he is going to give it a good try.
Likewise assists, Fernandes will be pushing to hit the 20 mark, having come close this past season.
It is important Fernandes does get a rest after the Euros, he has played in excess of 70 matches over the past month. The mental challenge of winning nothing after a big season has potential to wear heavy on him.
So United need to become a little less dependent on Fernandes, and this will help both the team, and the player, to play at a high level on a consistent basis.
He can still get better, and whether that bears out in numbers or not, Fernandes’ main target for next season will be to win silverware, no matter what his individual statistics are.
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