Former Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes Bruno Fernandes has rediscovered his best form at Old Trafford as a result of Cristiano Ronaldo’s November departure.
Fernandes, who joined United just over three years ago from Sporting Lisbon, scored his fourth goal in his last seven appearances in all competitions on Saturday, slotting home a penalty in the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. That also marked his third Premier League goal in his last four matches.
The midfielder, who has sported the captain’s armband for much of this season, has been exceptional in recent weeks, offering a higher attacking output than he had been at the beginning of the season. Though his role was important in the opening months of the Erik ten Hag era, forming a strong midfield partnership with both Christian Eriksen and Casemiro, he was going about his work in an almost unnoticeable fashion.
However, he has rediscovered his attacking game in recent weeks, highlighted by his tally of six direct goal contributions (goals and assists) in his last six league matches. And former Reds ace Ferdinand is adamant that he has been able to raise his game as a result of Ronaldo’s exit, insisting Fernandes needs to be United’s main man, where just about all of their good play goes through him.
“That does happen, though, you know,” Ferdinand told the Vibe with Five podcast, addressing why Fernandes and Ronaldo struggled to play together. “There are some players where their game just does not connect and I think Cristiano and Bruno… Bruno was just better when he was not there or not in the team.
“I think that might be because Bruno needs to be the guy that the game goes through, and I think the problem with Cristiano Ronaldo is because of his reputation and how good he is, people feel that they need to find him. I have played in teams where you have got a great No.9 and your first look is the No.9
“When they are that good, you do look beyond everybody else and I had like [Paul] Scholesy and [Michael] Carrick in front of me. Sometimes I looked past them first.
“But Bruno wants the first look and says, ‘Give me the first look, as I want to be the guy who plays the ball to define the game’. If he wasn’t getting that first look, maybe he became a bit disinterested, I don’t know, and it didn’t suit him.
“You are seeing the best of him now because the game seems to be going through him more often than not at Man United.”