That’s the view of Rene Meulensteen, who was a coach under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford during the most successful period in the club’s illustrious history.
Fernandes, 26, has been involved in 52% of United’s goals since he joined the club from Sporting Lisbon 11 months ago and he provided a goal and an assist in United’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City on Boxing Day.
United are heavily reliant on Fernandes’ creativity and he’s been behind their surge up the table, with the Red Devils now trailing leaders Liverpool by four points.
Meulensteen admits United can ill-afford to lose their Portuguese talisman but says Paul Pogba or Donny van de Beek could fill in if he’s absent.
The Portuguese playmaker was only behind Harry Maguire for minutes played in 2020 at Old Trafford and players are particularly vulnerable to injury in the congested festive period.
‘I think United can only have one New Year’s Wish and that’s for Fernandes not to get injured or suspended,’ Meulensteen told Stadium Astro.
‘His energy is unbelievable. Look at this goal again – it’s absolutely fantastic. The timing of the run and ball from Edinson Cavani is fantastic.
‘As soon as Fernandes gets on the ball the likes of Marcus Rashford are on their way. Fernandes is just so, so important for United. He gives them rhythm, he’s a winner, he’s a leader, he creates assists and he scores goals.’
However, the Dutch coach feels both players could play in Fernandes’ role, even if the side would miss the former Udinese playmaker.
‘They have other players that can go in that position like Pogba or Donny van de Beek but they don’t have the same impact as him,’ admitted Meulensteen.
‘I’m so impressed by his energy levels. He’s not afraid to work hard. He’s always trying to hurt the opposition with a pass in behind, he’s not afraid to shoot from distance.
‘It’s a player that United rely on heavily. I’m sure that if he wasn’t there it would have an effect on United’s form.’