Bruno Fernandes: Is Man Utd midfielder the best signing made in January?

Bruno Fernandes: Is Man Utd midfielder the best signing made in January?

It has been a year since Bruno Fernandes signed for Manchester United and his arrival has “single-handedly” changed the fortunes of the club, according to one pundit.

Prior to Fernandes joining from Sporting Lisbon for £47m in last season’s January transfer window, the Red Devils had suffered back-to-back to defeats and were in fifth place in the league, a huge 30 points adrift of eventual Premier League champions Liverpool.

A remarkable turnaround now sees United second in the table and fans dreaming of title 21 in 2021, although those hopes were hit by Wednesday’s 2-1 home defeat by Sheffield United.

BBC Sport assesses the impact the midfielder has had in his year at Old Trafford and, despite being at the club for just 12 months, asks if it merits him being the Premier League’s best January signing.

You can vote for who you think is the Premier League’s best January signing at the bottom of the page.

Premier League table since Bruno Fernandes joined Man: 1 Man Utd 72 pts, 2 Man City 71 pts, 3 Liverpool 66 pts, 4 Tottenham 58 pts, 5 Chelsea 56 pts, 6 Arsenal 56 pts
No team has taken more Premier League points than Manchester United since Bruno Fernandes’s arrival

Goals, assists, awards

On 22 January 2020, United had been embarrassed 2-0 at home by Burnley and jeered off at full-time by their own fans.

The result left manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clinging on to his job after a performance he said was “not good enough”.

Eight days later, Fernandes joined from Sporting Lisbon and few could have envisaged the upturn in form he has produced.

Since his debut, Fernandes has scored 28 times in all competitions – more than any other Premier League player – and he has also provided 17 assists, which means his total goal involvement of 45 is better than any Premier League player in that period.

Only Fifa Best winner Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have more goal involvements in Europe’s top five leagues than Fernandes since he signed for United.

Boss Solskjaer said after he netted his first goal against Watford: “He felt like a presence in the group from the first minute, a bit of a mix between Paul Scholes and Juan Sebastian Veron – the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of Scholesy.”

That quality saw Fernandes win four Premier League player of the month awards in 2020 – the first man to take the accolade four times in a calendar year.

In comparison, Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard and Alan Shearer won four player of the month awards in their entire careers in this country.

‘A top-quality player’

Fernandes’ impact has been likened to that of club legend Eric Cantona, whose entrance was the missing piece in ending United’s 26-year wait for a title back in 1992-93.

Former England striker Alan Shearer said: “Fernandes’ arrival transformed the whole team, not just by his own skill and ability to find a killer pass, but because his presence seemed to add an extra 10% to every other United player too.”

Ex-England midfielder Jermaine Jenas feels Fernandes “has single-handledly picked this team up and dragged them” up the league.

On Sunday Fernandes was on the bench for the FA Cup fourth-round tie against rivals Liverpool, but came on in the second half and scored the winning goal with a superb free-kick.

Former England striker Ian Wright said: “When he came on he made a massive difference because he is a top-quality player.”

Is Fernandes the best? Other standout Premier League January signings:

Patrice Evra – Monaco to Man Utd (£5.5m, 2006)

One of the best left-backs of the Premier League era. Made 379 appearances for the club and won five league titles, the Champions League and three League Cups.

Nemanja Vidic – Spartak Moscow to Man Utd (£7m, 2006)

Another shrewd piece of winter business by Manchester United, as Serbia defender Vidic went on to play 300 games for the club, captaining the side and winning five Premier League titles.

Seamus Coleman Sligo Rovers to Everton (£60,000, 2009)

An absolute bargain and has become a mainstay in Everton’s defence for more than a decade. Can’t be many better ‘value for money’ signings.

Luis Suarez – Ajax to Liverpool (£22.7m, 2011)

Uruguay striker Suarez joined Liverpool to replace Fernando Torres and became a folk hero at Anfield, scoring 82 goals in 133 games, agonisingly missing out on winning the Premier League title in 2013-14, his final season with the club.

Gary Cahill – Bolton Wanderers to Chelsea (£7m, 2012)

Chelsea won the FA Cup and Champions League in the defender’s first few months at the club and he went on to win two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, another FA Cup and a League Cup with the Blues.

Philippe Coutinho – Inter Milan to Liverpool (£8.5m, 2013)

The Brazilian may have left Liverpool for Barcelona without a trophy but any Liverpool fan will tell you the impact he had at the Reds, under both Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp, was immense.

Nemanja Matic – Benfica to Chelsea (£21m, 2014)

Another Nemanja that was a January hit, midfielder Matic rejoined Chelsea in 2014 and went on to win two Premier League titles in four seasons with the Blues.

Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool (£75m, 2018)

Eyebrows were raised at the amount Liverpool paid Southampton for Van Dijk, but the Dutch centre-half has been worth every penny with his assured performances in defence helping the Reds to Champions League and Premier League glory.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal (£56m, 2018)

Aubameyang has become captain of the Gunners and has finished top scorer for the club in the past two seasons. He also scored both goals when Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the FA Cup in 2020.

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