It's hard to argue that Manchester United have ever made a more important January signing than Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker arrived at a club in crisis for a fee of £47m in January 2020, but he has turned the Red Devils' fortunes on their head.
Man Utd are now sitting comfortably in second place in the Premier League table, and are on the brink of a Europa League final having hammered AS Roma 6-2 in their semi-final first leg at Old Trafford. Fernandes was at the heart of the Giallorossi's dismantling, as he so often has been over the past 15 months.
The 26-year-old has scored 26 goals and provided 16 assists in all competitions this season, and has bagged 38 goals since making his debut in February 2020. Fernandes' arrival has transformed Man Utd from top six strugglers to potential Premier League title contenders, and his consistent high standards are driving his teammates to reach similar levels.
But how does Fernandes push himself in his quest to be the very best, and what are his hopes and dreams during his time at the heart of this exciting Man Utd side? The Portuguese forward recently discussed it all with FourFourTwo, and 90min has picked out the best bits for you to enjoy.
Early years as a defender & English 'cinema'
“I’m a Boavista supporter and started to watch them play because of my cousin, Vitor Borges, who came through the youth system to make their first team. I wanted to follow him and make the same steps.
"He’s 36 now, a right-back. I used to be a defender as well – unluckily for me I was a centre-back until I was 15! I didn’t score a lot of goals then… but I’m scoring now.
“In England, I feel like the people come to enjoy the game as a show, like the theatre or the cinema. The atmosphere is more clean. But in England, every game is played in a full stadium – it doesn’t matter which team you play against. The atmosphere is really good and it’s nice to feel it.”
“I wasn’t worried about the speculation. There had been a lot of noise about a transfer in the summer and nothing happened. When January  came, I was completely free of mind. I wasn’t thinking that I would either go to Manchester or not – I was simply happy doing what I was doing.
"I was in a good place playing at a good club. I was happy at Sporting and didn’t feel I had to leave. If I’d stayed, there would have been no problem – everything was cool and I was doing what I wanted to do. My family was living well and everything was ok."
Manchester United 'dream'
“I’d dreamed about playing in the Premier League.
“But I know so many players who have played for Manchester. I know them because I’m from a country where football is so strong in the culture. Football is always on television, and the Premier League and La Liga were the big two after the Portuguese league. Maybe the Italian league, too.
"My mates wore tracksuits of Manchester [United], Barça, Madrid, Milan. Manchester was still one of the best teams in the world as I was growing up.”
“The day I joined the club was [Manchester] City away," he says, discussing the Carabao Cup semi-final. "We won the match, but we didn’t win because we went out of the cup on aggregate. I saw the team which wanted to do a lot better, but which also had a lot to improve.
“Even now, we know that we have a lot to improve, and we know that when our results aren’t good, the mood isn’t the best. I can see that, because when we lose I’m not the best either. My mood is really bad the day after we lose. The team wanted a winning mentality and needed one.”
Relationship with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
"Good. It’s good with all of the coaches here and, honestly, if the mood wasn’t good then the results we’re getting wouldn’t come. We have Michael Carrick, too, a great midfielder who I feel I can learn a lot from. I always pay attention when he talks to me.
“He [Solskjaer] simply told me to be myself. To enjoy it, to play my own game. He said that he’d watched me for Sporting and that he wanted the same Bruno here – someone who tried to lead the team. It was important that the club trusted me to be me.”
What Man Utd need to win the Premier League
"To win more matches. It’s tough in England, because the games are so tight. Every team genuinely has a chance to win the match. It’s 50/50 before every game, and we see it with the results. But we’re doing better.
"We can’t drop as many points as we do at home, but we’ve been in second, and at the start of the season there weren’t many people who were saying United would be second."
What Fernandes craves
“Trophies. We can’t think of anything else at this club.
“United is made for trophies and the whole mood is around that. We reached the semis [of the League Cup] and lost to City, but that’s not enough. That wasn’t our time – we need to be in finals, and to win them.”