Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was well aware of Bruno Fernandes’ ability before Manchester United signed the midfielder for £47m in January but it was the Portuguese playmaker’s mentality that convinced the Norwegian he was perfect for Old Trafford.
The 26-year-old rescued United’s season with his scintillating performances last term but the Portugal international provided far more than his goals and assists, proving also to be a figurehead for Solskjaer’s young side.
Fernandes skippered Sporting Lisbon before he swapped the Portuguese capital for Manchester and the midfielder displayed his leadership qualities during a tactical chat with Eric Bailly at half-time in Manchester United’s win against Luton.
The midfielder started United’s tie on the bench and it took a penalty from Juan Mata in the closing stages of the first half to give the Premier League club a lead at half-time, in what was a far from straightforward opening 45 minutes.
United were humbled by Crystal Palace in a 3-1 defeat on Saturday and Solskjaer gave his second string a run out at Kenilworth Road.
With such a congested fixture list, the Norwegian clearly wants to use the competition to get his squad up to speed, including Eric Bailly.
The Ivorian had a shaky opening 45 minutes in a disjointed United first half and Fernandes was seen giving the defender some advice as Solskjaer’s side made their way onto the pitch for the restart.
Fernandes was seen speaking to Bailly as the majority of his teammates warmed up on the sidelines and he appeared to be giving instructions to the Ivorian about his pass selection.
The playmaker provided the leadership that United were missing in Paul Pogba’s absence last season and it’s another example of the guidance that Fernandes gives to his teammates, even when he’s not playing.
Fernandes did eventually enter the fray, playing the final ten minutes as United booked their passage into the next round with a 3-0 win, with Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford scoring late on.