Manchester United teammates Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba helped France to a 1-0 victory over Portugal that sent the world champions through to the Nations League finals for the first time at the expense of Bruno Fernandes.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been secretly pleased to see the Portuguese magnifico steal the show with a fine individual display during the international defeat.
Despite Fernandes’ best attempts to make the magic happen, the Red Devils have been affected by an inconsistent start to the season, which has seen repeated calls for Solskjaer’s sacking, amid reports that Pogba is unhappy at Old Trafford, among other things.
Portugal, who were unbeaten in their past six games prior to the fixture with France, suffered a rare defeat. Whilst Joao Felix struggled, his older international teammate shined.
Per SofaScore, the 26-year-old dynamo received a high statistical score of 7.3 for his efforts – he made four key passes, which is more than any other player on the pitch managed including Pogba, took 62 touches of the ball, registered 32 out of 46 passes (70%), won two out of four ground duels in total, took one shot on target and completed three out of six accurate crosses, as well as being fouled twice, whilst he made one tackle and one interception, which implies that he also contributed defensively as well.
Squawka gave Fernandes, who earns £180,000-a-week according to Spotrac, a solid grade of 7/10, which was a higher rating than Cristiano Ronaldo received, whilst The Hard Tackle went a fraction below, claiming he was ‘the most creative player on the pitch, Bruno Fernandes played as many as 4 key passes while coming close with an effort of his own’ whilst he ‘put in a shift defensively as well.’
Recently described as an “exceptional” talent by talkSPORT pundit Trevor Sinclair, the Portugal international hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down anytime soon, as he has scored five goals and supplied three assists in seven games in the Premier League so far this season, whilst he is averaging 2.9 shots and 2.9 key passes per game, via WhoScored.
By comparison, even Pogba is only managing 1.7 shots and 0.3 key passes per league game, as per WhoScored.
At a time when he faces constant scrutiny from fans and pundits alike, Solskjaer will be delighted to see Fernandes fully firing on all cylinders. Now he will be hoping he can continue his fine form for club and country after the international break.
AND in other news, Exit pending: Ed Woodward must cash in on Manchester United talisman Paul Pogba…