Bruno Fernandes Continues to Prove He's the Heartbeat of This Manchester United Team

Nov 25, 2020, 2:45 PM GMT
Bruno Fernandes
Fernandes was outstanding against Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday | Michael Regan/Getty Images
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With 35 minutes on the clock in Manchester United's Champions League clash with Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday, Bruno Fernandes had the chance to wrap up his first ever hat-trick for the Red Devils from the penalty spot after Marcus Rashford was brought down.

Instead of completing his hat-trick though, he put the ball in Rashford's hands and gave him the chance to add to his Champions League goals tally of four goals for the season.

Marcus Rashford
Bruno gave the penalty to Rashford | Michael Regan/Getty Images

In some ways, it seemed almost fitting that the midfielder had the chance to grab his third goal of the game from the penalty spot, considering the criticism he has come in for regarding the number of spot kicks he takes in more recent times. Bruno has been labelled as a 'penalty merchant' by some and his stats only look good because 'United get loads of penalties'.

But Fernandes' outstanding display on Tuesday showed exactly why he is so much more than just the team's designated penalty taker - he's the heartbeat in the side and the one who makes the Red Devils tick.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named a very attacking lineup for the clash with Basaksehir, and they didn't disappoint in the opening 45. From the off, United were dominant, playing crisp one and two touch passes, finding pockets of space of exploiting gaps time and time again.

In fact, the Red Devils took the lead after just seven minutes through Fernandes. No, it wasn't a penalty actually, instead it was one of the cleanest and most venomous strikes you are likely to see for quite some time. As the ball came out to him on the edge of the area, he let it bounce once before then unleashing a thunderbolt which flew into the top corner.

There could have been three goalkeepers, the ferocity and direction of the strike meant they still wouldn't have had a chance - it was that good. It was quite the technique for a player who only scores penalties as well.

The 26-year-old went on to grab himself a second just 12 minutes later as he pounced on a goalkeeping mistake to simply tap home. But when the chance to complete his hat-trick presented itself, Bruno refused to let the moment get the better of him and instead remembered the promise he had made to Rashford.

Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
Fernandes could have completed his hat-trick from the spot | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Indeed, after the game, he explained to BT and MUTV that he promised Rashford he would let him take the next penalty. This was merely the latest example of Fernandes' leadership qualities and willingness to do whatever it takes to support the squad and his teammates, even if it comes at a cost to him. Sure, it would have been a memorable moment for him to score his first hat-trick at Old Trafford, but this didn't matter to him, instead what mattered more was his promise and the chance to give his teammate the opportunity to increase his tally in the competition.

Indeed, it's the second time in just a matter of weeks that Fernandes has passed up the opportunity to seal a hat-trick for himself - the other time coming against Everton. The Portuguese Magnifico was also sublime against the Toffees, driving United to victory. He helped his side overturn a 1-0 deficit with two wonderful goals (both of which were actually not penalties either). In fact, his first was a perfect header, making a late run into the box before powering home to equalise.

But with the hosts fighting back in the second period, Solskjaer's men were presented with a counter-attacking opportunity to seal the game late on. Led by Fernandes, the former Sporting CP man charged towards the Everton goal, but instead of taking the very clear chance to score himself, he recognised Edinson Cavani was in a better position and squared the ball for him to make it 3-1.

Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay
Bruno played in Cavani against Everton rather than going for goal himself | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He could have scored and it would have been his third goal of the game. But Bruno recognised that the importance of a more guaranteed third goal and the three points far outweighed the need for him to get on the scoresheet again.

Fernandes' most recent brace against Basaksehir on Tuesday means he is the quickest midfielder to reach the 20 goal mark for Man Utd, doing so in just 35 matches.

Of course, a number of these have come from the spot, there's no denying that, but this shouldn't take away from just how ridiculous his figures are for a United side that really do struggle for consistency. As well as netting nine goals so far in 2020/21, Bruno has also managed five assists to go with that in just 13 appearances.

But digging a little bit deeper, the attacking midfielder has also created 26 chances in the Premier League so far this campaign - the most of any player. Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne sits second on 23, while Jack Grealish and Mohamed Salah have both created 21 openings so far.

The numbers speak for themselves.

The way Fernandes has managed to connect with his teammates and not only help bring the best out of them on the pitch, but also set an example for them to follow, has been nothing short of sensational.

Yes, he does take penalties, but he's also the Premier League's most creative player and is continuing to deliver week-in, week-out for this Man Utd team. As the heartbeat in the team, everything goes through him, dictating play and linking up with his teammates with consummate ease.

But for all of his quality on the ball, there are also few players in world football who possess his attitude and mindset. Never an individual, Fernandes is constantly looking to do what is best for his teammates and his side, with his decision to hand the penalty to Rashford just the latest example. A phenomenal footballer with the drive and desire to always improve and be better, where would United be without him?

For more from Adam Aladay, follow him on Twitter!

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