After seeing their win streak snapped by Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford, Manchester United may have entered the London Stadium with a degree of apprehension.
United beat Everton and West Brom, before avenging their humbling defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir in a 4-1 win at the Theatre of Dreams, then edging the high-flying Saints in a 3-2 thriller at St Mary’s.
But the loss to Thomas Tuchel’s side stopped the Red Devils in their tracks, and ahead of the trip to West Ham at the weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been forgiven for feeling a little anxious.
It looked like Solskjaer’s side were in for a long night when the unmarked Tomas Soucek headed in from a corner in the first half, before Pablo Fornals hit the post and Sebastien Haller slipped at the last second when he looked destined to score.
However, the introduction of Bruno Fernandes changed the course of the game, as the Portuguese magnifico inspired the spirited comeback against West Ham after replacing the out-of-sorts Donny van de Beek at half-time.
Confident in possession and comfortable on the ball, the 26-year-old pulled the strings from the midfield alongside Paul Pogba, despite the fact that he didn’t even register a single shot.
As per SofaScore, he took 45 touches of the ball, provided 33 out of 39 passes (85%) and produced eight key passes, which is more than any other player on the pitch managed in the entire game.
Having started every Premier League fixture so far this season prior to the clash with West Ham, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Fernandes start from the bench.
But with a well-drilled RB Leipzig up next – although they have conceded nine goals in 10 Bundesliga games, three of those came during a 3-3 draw with defending champions Bayern Munich – the midfield maestro’s creativity could be key to unlocking their defence once again.
Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal player Paul Merson has reserved special praise for Fernandes in the past, insisting he is better than the players they had before, and adding that he can bring the best out of Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.
He said: “He’s come in, has started off flying, and everything is great. You only start passing the ball backwards and sideways when your confidence goes, but at the moment, he’s playing well and doing everything right. It’s about how he reacts to having a couple of bad games, but nobody will know that until it happens, and at the moment, he’s ticked every box.
“He has a lot of pace in front of him, in Martial, James and Rashford. He’s also playing with Mata, who is on the same wavelength as him, and Matic, who will give him the ball simply when he knows better players are in front of him.”
In five appearances in the Champions League this season, the Portugal international, who currently earns wages worth £100,000-per-week, has scored three goals and supplied an assist so far, whilst he is averaging 3 shots and 2.2 key passes per game, via WhoScored.
United signed Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon on a five-and-a-half-year deal for £47m with performance-related bonuses. Since then, it’s fair to say that he has turned out to be an absolute gem, with 22 goals and 14 assists in 38 games in all competitions, via Transfermarkt.
Bringing Fernandes back into the fray could prove pivotal to picking up a huge result at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night.