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A True Leader: The Indefatigable Bruno Fernandes

When the Premier League finally halted for the International Break in March, you might have gathered that there were a few sighs of relief when the news broke that Marcus Rashford would not be joining the England camp. Rashford is injured, sure, but it is a minor one, and you would guess that he will be well served by the rest after a truly relentless club schedule since the World Cup finished. United, in four competitions, have played more games than nearly every other teamin world football this season, so giving the star man a couple of weeks off seems sensible.

On the other hand, we have Bruno Fernandes, the man who seems to play in every possible match for club and country. As Fernandes stepped on the pitch for Portugal for the game against Luxembourg, it would be his 23rd appearance thus far since the start of the year. It meant that Fernandes averaged a game around every 3.5 days. As most fans are well aware, he normally always plays the full 90 minutes too. He was subbed off after 68 minutes in the FA Cup win over Reading. Apart from that, it’s usually whistle to whistle for the Portuguese star. Fernandes signed just over three years ago and has already made 170 appearances. By the end of this season, it is likely he will surpass Eric Cantona’s tally of 184 United appearances.

More trophies on the way?

Fernandes’ willingness to play every minute and his incredible injury-free record is remarkable. He has been a key component in United’s success this season. Sure, the current Premier League betting odds suggest that United are highly unlikely to win the title, but there is every chance another trophy or two will be added to the EFL Cup. Going deep in the FA Cup and Europa League will likely mean Fernandes surpasses 60 games for United this season, an incredible feat during a campaign that also took in the World Cup. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer once remarked that Fernandes never gets tired, and it seems that the former boss was right.
Of course, Fernandes is not beloved by everyone, albeit most fans now seem to ‘get’ the midfielder. He is a forward-looking player, both literally and figuratively, always looking to attack, playing balls behind the defence to feed the likes of Rashford. He admitted himself that his ideas don’t always come off, but once you understand that is his way, you can appreciate the Portuguese. His goals record speaks for itself, as do the assists. He trails only Kevin De Bruyne in terms of big chances created in the Premier League this season. In short, he is the heartbeat of the United team.

Fernandes always takes responsibility
Sure, there have been some bad performances, particularly against Liverpool. But Fernandes is usually at the heart of everything good this United does, and there has been a lot more of the good than the bad this season. Of course, the fact he is never injured and always up for it makes him the natural choice to be captain. The dropping of Harry Maguire made it the case that Fernandes would be given the armband in the former’s absence, but it also felt like a natural step in Fernandes’ evolution at the club. The captain is not always the best player, although Fernandes can make claims about that. The captain is the leader, the one who takes responsibility, the one who is always available, and the one who demands more from teammates and the fans. Fernandes is all of those things.

It remains to be seen whether Fernandes can keep up with this incredible rate of appearances. He is not infallible, and it may be the case that he gets injured, his form dips, or he just gets plain tired. But having a guy that is always ready to give his all is a boon for the new-look Manchester United under the management of Erik Ten Hag. He is a true leader, and Ten Hag knows it, and that’s why he is on the pitch every time you see Manchester United play.


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