Fernandes underlines importance to Man Utd with starring role in comeback
One peach of a strike can make up for an awful lot of dross.
One stinging, slightly curling beauty from outside the box can conceal a multitude of sins.
So it was with Paul Pogba and the sweet hit that set Manchester United on their way to yet another comeback victory.
And Mason Greenwood had not exactly illuminated proceedings before his beauty put his side ahead in a win that was eminently predictable when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side went to the half-time break trailing by a single goal.
Because not only had West Ham failed to make anything like the most of their first half dominance but Bruno Fernandes was clearly going to appear for the second half.
Also coming on, of course, was Marcus Rashford, who finished in a manner that had been way beyond Seb Haller when the West Ham striker had a golden chance to double the home team’s first half lead.
But while he might not have troubled the scoreboard in the wonderful way managed by Pogba, Greenwood and Rashford, there can be no underestimating the importance of Fernandes to this particular Manchester United fightback.
In fact, there is no underestimating the importance of Fernandes to Manchester United, full stop. Period.
Already, it is hard to recall a player in recent seasons more central to his Premier League team’s performance.
More than likely, there are statistics out there that prove this point.
Assists, goals, chances created, pre-assists, that sort of stuff.
But the fact is that he is THE player that makes this team tick.
Perhaps you can feel sorry for Donny van de Beek, hooked at half-time after an anonymous 45 minutes.
You can wonder why the club signed Van de Beek if Solskjaer – as is currently shown by his reluctance to trust the Dutchman – was none too keen.
But it is impossible to question the manager’s take on things when Fernandes is clearly such a considerable upgrade on Van de Beek.
To say Fernandes single-handedly transformed the visitors would be an exaggeration as Rashford struck fear into West Ham.
But they looked a different team with Fernandes scheming and darting.
Manchester United are looking to plot their path back to the top.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have missed out on Jadon Sancho in the summer, but he still made some big moves in the transfer market with Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani all arriving.
But their start to the season has been a mixed bag, with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 thrashing by Spurs at one end of the scale, and a tremendous 2-1 win over PSG in Paris at the other.
The question now is whether they can find the right balance?
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With Fernandes around, even Pogba seemed a different character and, after his first half contribution, he certainly needed to be.
Sometimes, it is hard to believe how ponderous Pogba can be. He suggested, after giving away the decisive penalty in Arsenal’s win at Old Trafford, he might not be as fit as he would like.
Nothing appeared to have changed since then and that was five weeks ago.
The way he was routinely dispossessed by Declan Rice towards the end of the first half just about typified his casual, slapdash performance.
Yet then came the perfect ping that demoralised West Ham in one moment.
They thought the ball had gone out for a throw-in, Fernandes moved it on to Pogba and his first-timer meant there was only going to be one winner – the team that can’t stop giving head starts on the road and can’t stop fighting back.
It could have been different had West Ham more to show than a Tomas Soucek close-ranger as reward for their first-half dominance or, indeed, had Jarrod Bowen converted a decent chance soon after half-time.
But the line-up Solskjaer sent out for that second half was a line-up that should be very, very serious title contenders.
Not least because it has Fernandes in it.
Not just a penalty-taker, not just a, er, skilful winner of set-pieces, not just a cajoler and not just a positive nuisance.
Fernandes has become this Manchester United’s focal point, its fulcrum, its inspiration.
And that is why Solkskjaer and Ed Wooward will be offering him a new deal, offering to double his money if he commits even more strongly to Old Trafford.
But if Fernandes carries on inspiring this team like he does, they just might need to treble it.