Bruno Fernandes has spoken of his determination to secure a first trophy for Manchester United in Wednesday’s Europa League final – and insists comparisons with Eric Cantona only make him more determined to succeed.
United are in Gdansk, Poland, for the final of Europe’s second competition. There, they take on crack Spanish outfit Villarreal as they strive to lift the first trophy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign. It will mark another season of upward progress for United, who also finished second in the Premier League.
Fernandes will possibly captain United on the night in the absence of Harry Maguire. He looks a huge doubt after sustaining an injury against Aston Villa on May 9.
Portuguese star Fernandes has lit up United since his move from Sporting Lisbon. He has scored 40 goals in all competitions in the season and a half since he signed. He has 19 Premier League assists in that time and has won four player of the month awards.
That has earned comparisons to legendary United star Cantona. The Frenchman’s arrival from Leeds in 1992 was the catalyst for United to end their 26-year title wait. And many believe Fernandes has had a similar impact on the club.
Ahead of the game, Fernandes spoke to BBC Sport about those comparisons and his determination to succeed.
“It is an honour to be compared with him because the impact he had was really high and he won many major trophies with the club,” Fernandes said.
“But when you are compared with this kind of big player it means you need to be better every day. It makes me work harder to keep in the mind of the people, being compared with him. That, for me, is a good pressure.”
Indeed, the figures do back up those claims. Since his arrival, United’s win percentage has risen to 59% from 42.9%.
However, he insists he is not a one-man team and has sent a call to arms ahead of the Europa League final.
“It is such a big club. It would be heavy to lift it myself,” he said.
“Of course, I did really well. I know that, from my numbers, my performance, everything.
“But this comes from the help and trust of my teammates. They have helped me to be better every day. And if they help me, I know I can help them.
“This team is improving,” Fernandes added. “Everyone can see it. We are growing up and understand together we can reach better things.
“The most important thing for me about next season is being all together; club, players and fans pushing to the same side. If we all do that we could do many good things next season, which, I am pretty sure, will be much better than this one.”
New deal for Fernandes
According to a recent report, United will book in immediate talks after the game with Fernandes to thrash out a new deal. Should they return with the trophy, they claim cunning club chiefs plan to make the most of that feel-good factor and convince Fernandes to stay.
The 26-year-old signed a deal to 2025 upon his arrival worth £100,000 a week.
But their clever double ploy will see Fernandes’ pay packet rocket to double at £200,000 a week. That will see him earn parity with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire. It will also mean he’s their joint-third highest earner behind Paul Pogba and David De Gea.
Furthermore – and perhaps most crucially – the paper claims Fernandes wants United to sign two new players before he commits.
As per the report, he wants United to sign a new defender and a new midfielder to boost their push for Premier League glory next season.
It’s suggested he wants a ball-playing centre-half brought in to play alongside Harry Maguire. Both Raphael Varane and Pau Torres appear to fit the ball.
And he also wants the club to ‘upgrade’ their defensive midfield options, with Fred and Nemanja Matic paling in comparison to some of the Premier League’s other players.
They claim that could lead United to make a renewed attempt to prise Declan Rice to the club from West Ham. He would cost in excess of £80m, with the Hammers determined to keep him.
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