As Manchester City emerged victorious in the Manchester Derby, Fernandinho proved that he is the only component in Pep Guardiola’s machine that cannot be chopped and changed around.
The Spanish mastermind has a wealth of midfield options to choose from and the Cityzens’ lineup rarely stays the same for consecutive games but one of the first names on the team-sheet week in week out is that of Fernandinho.
The Brazilian has been at the Etihad since 2013 but, at the ripe old age of 33, is currently having his best year in sky blue at the base of the midfield and brought his very best for Sunday’s clash with the Red Devils.
Grabbing the derby by the horns, the enforcer found Bernardo Silva in acres of space ahead of the United back four early on as he pinged a skimming pass along the surface; the Portuguese blasted wide from range but the warning signs were there.
Soon, the hosts capitalised on their 91% possession in the early stages as they picked apart Jose Mourinho’s defence and found the net via David Silva, who scored in a third consecutive home game for the first time, with the City captain firing home from close range in the 12th minute.
Sergio Aguero scored his eighth goal against the 13-time Premier League champions just after the break, combining nicely with Riyad Mahrez before firing a rocket through David de Gea, but the jubilation was short-lived; the visitors pulled one back through Anthony Martial from the spot as substitute Romelu Lukaku was brought down by Ederson in the 58th minute and suddenly the game was for the taking.
The Old Trafford outfit had good spells but were ultimately undone by a wonderful 44-pass move that was finished coolly by Ilkay Gundogan in the 86th minute to ensure the champions kept all three points.
While Bernardo Silva and co stole plaudits for their creative exploits, Fernandinho – who Transfermarkt value at just £13.5million – operated a little more in the shadows and is the reason that the aforementioned attackers could do what they did.
The 5-foot-10 right-footer tirelessly protected those behind him as he completed three interceptions while also putting his body on the line with four clearances and two blocks to help limit United’s shots on target to just one all game (Martial’s penalty).
However, to credit the number 25’s defensive work alone would be an injustice as he finished the game with a 93% pass accuracy and a key pass to boot. His ability to collect the ball by perfectly reading the game before executing a pass often rendered him the one sparking his side’s attacks.
Like a fine wine, the 49-capped international appears to get better with age but when he does finally lose his legs, he will be the hardest to replace of City’s current superstars.