The influential Fernandes already appears an ideal fit.

Bruno Fernandes can cement his status as Manchester United’s new talisman when the Portugal midfielder gets his first taste of the derby rivalry with Manchester City on Sunday.

Fernandes has made a flying start with United following his January move from Sporting Lisbon for an initial £47 million ($61 million).

The 25-year-old has scored three goals and provided two assists in his seven appearances, helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team extend their unbeaten run to nine games altogether competitions.

Since the Alex Ferguson era led to 2013, United have struggled to seek out players with the personality and presence to deal with the pressure of trying to emulate those golden days.

But the influential Fernandes already appears an ideal fit.

He has shown no signs of being intimidated by the task of becoming United’s actor. Said to be a vocal presence in training sessions, Fernandes displayed his leadership qualities with several animated discussions with Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay and Fred during Thursday’s FA Cup fifth-round win at Derby.

“I like to see that during a player, he doesn’t change coming into a replacement team. He’s an equivalent as he was at Sporting,” Solskjaer said.

“That’s a boy confidently , with quality, good form and that is his personality. Everyone should be themselves. He’s are available as a pacesetter and he’s shown he’s a pacesetter .”

United reportedly balked at Sporting’s summer selling price for Fernandes, but the fee they paid within the January window is already looking a bargain.

‘Lifted the standard’


Fernandes’ impact has been so notable that some critics claim Solskjaer and United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward should have gone harder to sign him within the close-season. Among numerous issues that have bedeviled them this term, United have had problems with missed penalties.

So it had been instructive to ascertain the assertive way Fernandes seized the ball and calmly slotted home from the spot for his first United goal against Watford.

“Certainly Bruno has fitted in great on the pitch, and is as important round the pitch and within the room,” said United assistant manager Michael Carrick. “He possesses a true presence about him and therefore the lads have taken to him well. He has lifted the quality and therefore the spirit within the squad.”

Fernandes’ form has raised fresh questions on the longer term of United’s malcontent midfielder Paul Pogba, who is currently sidelined by an ankle injury.

Pogba has been the face of United’s global brand since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, but in the week there have been renewed reports the unsettled France star remains keen to go away .

Real Madrid and Juventus are said to waiting to pounce and Fernandes’ quick adaptation to English football may make it easier for Solskjaer to think about moving on from the divisive World Cup winner.

Regardless of Pogba’s future, Fernandes will face City with an opportunity to strengthen the bond with fans who have already taken to chanting his name on the Stretford End.

United have beaten their neighbors twice at the Etihad Stadium this season — once within the Premier League and the other within the League Cup semi-finals. But City still knocked them out of the League Cup after a swaggering 3-1 first-leg victory that extended their excellent recent record at Old Trafford.

Sunday’s match may be a fixture meaning more to fifth-placed United than second-placed City because the hosts chase an area within the Champions League.

Hoping to secure United’s first top-flight convert City on home turf since 2015, Solskjaer underlined the expectations on Fernandes’ shoulders when he urged him to enhance on his display at Derby.

“He’s a winner. He doesn’t take 99 percent nearly as good enough. He’ll probably know he must do better than this against City,” he said.

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