Man Utd should forget Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s time for Bruno Fernandes

If there’s one word to define Manchester United in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, it’s ‘decline’.


Now, the reasons for that have been widely-documented. A club run with the pursuit of celebrity in mind, it’s hard to add anything new to that particular discourse.


There have been other decisions to have undermined United’s attempts to restore former glories, though the return of Cristiano Ronaldo is the one to have made the least sense on purely a sporting level.


Undoubtedly a brilliant goalscorer, Ronaldo was almost too big to bring back. No longer able to function as part of a fluid frontline as he did during his first spell at Old Trafford, as well as his glittering time with Real Madrid, the rest of United’s attack has suffered.


Shunting Elvis Presley in to sing harmony with Paul McCartney and John Lennon might have sounded like a dream on paper but, in reality, it would never have worked. Too many cooks really do spoil the broth.


At their best under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the team were able to counter at speed, constantly proving a thorn in Manchester City’s side. That may not be the extent of the succes a club like United demand but it did at least hint they could compete, whatever limitations the Norwegian had as a manager.


No one has this decision affected more than Bruno Fernandes.


Even when playing together for Portugal, there had been doubts about just how well the two could operate together. At club level, the problems look even worse.


In 60 games together, they have combined for goals only five times. Fernandes, so often United’s driving force after his arrival in 2020, just does not seem well suited to the support role he’s been forced into.


At 27, this is a player in his prime. Capable of leading the charge almost single-handedly, Fernandes was everything United were missing. Building around him, rather than on top, seemed like the best way of taking a team who finished second last season up another level.


Certainly, it’s worth remembering the fact that Fernandes’ first 14 Premier League games for the club yielded eight goals and seven assists. His first full season, 18 and 11. Now, those tallies stand at 9 and 6 respectively.


So then, the idea of a new contract amid doubts about Ronaldo’s long-term future has to be taken as good news. It would be easy to stick with Ronaldo, hailing his superhuman ability to score goals, focusing on the individual tally for social media engagement in lieu of team success.


For him to leave and Fernandes, alongside Jadon Sancho, to come back into the fore takes a certain amount of bravery from decision-makers at the club.


Whether or not that works of course remains to be seen, but it is a footballing-decision. Making Fernandes the focal point of United has worked – albeit not in the way of trophies – before and only the rush-of-blood decision to bring Ronaldo back stopped it.


That’s not to say it will instantly fix all of their problems, however. As a club, United seem obsessed with the idea of a hero. There is no one player capable of doing that.


The great captains of the past, Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Nemanja Vidic were all surrounded by functioning teams. Eric Cantona was the icing on the cake, sitting on top of an era-defining generation of young players who would go on to greatness themselves.


Still, at least a return to putting the emphasis on Fernandes would suggest United are thinking in a football sense.


Now, it’s up to decision-makers to prove they have the tools, or indeed the desire, to build around that further.

Author: Lucas Carlson