Man Utd v Leeds: Match in pictures
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Where would Manchester United be without Bruno Fernandes? Not for the first time, that question is worth raising. His heroics against Leeds on Saturday showed a player operating at the peak of his powers – and it’s surprising to think that Red Devils staff once vetoed his signing amid concerns over giving the ball away too much.
Manchester United don’t always start a new season well.
It was only a year ago where they were beaten 3-1 by Crystal Palace, on a chastening night for all involved.
But there was to be no repeat of that on Saturday afternoon, with United putting in a mesmeric performance to put Leeds to the sword.
Fernandes scored a sublime hat-trick for United, with the Portugal international joined on the scoresheet from Mason Greenwood and Fred.
It was obviously a positive afternoon for everybody associated with the Red Devils.
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But, for Fernandes, it was particularly special. To score a hat-trick, on the opening day of the season, is no mean feat.
Especially when you consider the nightmare Euro 2020 campaign he had with Portugal, where he struggled to get into the side as they crashed out in the round of 16.
And it’s incredulous to think that, back in the summer transfer window of 2019, the Red Devils passed on the chance to sign him.
A report from the Daily Mail at the time revealed scouts harboured concerns over Fernandes’ ball retention skills, believing he gives it away too often.
In the 2018/2019 campaign, he managed a lowly 75.1 per cent pass completion ratio.
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And United scouts didn’t believe he was the ideal fit for Solskjaer’s team, thinking he’d be a liability in the middle of the park.
However, months later, they changed their mind.
United were struggling for form under Solskjaer at the time, with a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley seeing supporters turn on the Glazers.
They then intended to sign Erling Haaland but, after being turned down by the Norway international, then opted to snap up Fernandes instead.
And the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.
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Fernandes netted 28 goals across all competitions last term, with the 26-year-old finishing ahead of Marcus Rashford in the scoring charts.
And his hat-trick against Leeds shows he’ll be instrumental in the weeks and months ahead, especially with Solskjaer eyeing the title.
The United boss was fill of praise for Fernandes after the match against Leeds, saying: “He’s a risk taker, he’s a Man United player.
“When you’re a forward at United you have to have confidence, a little bit of arrogance and take risks.
“When you have the quality he’s got, players give him decent chances to be fair!”
Rio Ferdinand, too, was full of praise for Fernandes after his electric display.
“I just love watching him play, you’ve got players who play safe, he plays on the edge all day,” he said.
“The big thing about Pogba and Bruno, when it went flat those two players came alive.
“That’s what you want from big players in those times.”
Fernandes is expected to feature when United lock horns with Southampton next weekend.
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