Bruno Fernandes offers a glimpse into Manchester United's past ... and future

Likened to Veron and Scholes, the Portuguese No 10 can add goals and creativity United have lacked in

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As he tends to do, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reached into Manchester United’s past for a comparison. Bruno Fernandes had announced himself at Old Trafford with an enviably casual first United strike and a part in all three goals against Watford. The United manager felt his £47 million (Dh223m) recruit reminded him of both Paul Scholes and Juan Sebastian Veron.

They were heady sentiments. Scholes’ status as a United legend scarcely needs explaining. Veron is a more intriguing case, a player who came at great expense, who rarely realised his potential in England but whose teammates admired his talent.

There is a more cautionary comparison at United in the times when they have become a byword for bad spending: Alexis Sanchez, the worst signing in the club’s history. There are reasons United have an unwanted reputation for showing more money than sense in the transfer market. Early impressions can be deceptive, but the initial verdict could be that Fernandes is the anti-Sanchez, a player who is happy to be at Old Trafford, who has been signed to fill a glaring vacancy and who will bring the goals and assists the Chilean was supposed to.

There can, of course, be some wishful thinking at such points. Angel di Maria initially looked a player in United’s truest traditions, Memphis Depay, with his brace against Bruges, the wunderkind who seemed a worthy inheritor of the famed No 7 shirt. Each now looks an indictment, if not quite of Sanchez-style proportions.

And yet Fernandes’ start has been auspicious. “A dream come true,” he said. Left-back Luke Shaw added: "It shows someone's quality when they come in and they find it so easy to adapt straight away. He’s been brilliant so far.” The most laidback of penalties – even if some felt Fernandes dived to win it - a capacity to burst into the box, set-piece expertise and the ability to score from midfield: it amounts to a package United lacked.

Solskjaer was impressed by the newcomer’s ambitious intent. “He risks the ball like Seba,” he said. Veron did not stick to the safe pass. Nor has Fernandes. Tellingly, only Paul Pogba averages as many key passes per game and he has been missed as United’s midfield has become a wasteland. Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard have been remarkably unproductive; it is a reason why United have floundered in games when they have had the majority of possession. They have lacked both creators and finishers outside the forward line.

While Marcus Rashford’s tally of 19 goals is excellent, Anthony Martial’s 15 encouraging and Mason Greenwood’s 11 a hint of future eminence, no one else has contributed more than three. United have rarely had as few threats. Fernandes is not shy about shooting and only Rashford averages more efforts per game. The YouTube compilations of his long-range goals show he could add another dimension to a team who sometimes only unlock opponents on the counter-attack.

Fernandes ticks boxes. He can play deeper in a midfield duo, as a box-to-box runner in a three but he looks best as a No 10. United’s weakest position should become one of their strongest. He should cushion the blow of Pogba’s probable summer departure. With Fred’s recent improvement and Scott McTominay’s return to fitness, a midfield is taking shape. So is a project. Solskjaer has his failings, but he is taking a long-term view as he constructs a jigsaw. He has added another piece, potentially for years. “A big piece and an important one at the business end of the field,” he said. “We have spent with Harry [Maguire] and Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] and now we have got the No 10 nailed down.”