Manchester United are eager to tie Bruno Fernandes down to a new contract — but keeping him at Old Trafford will not be easy.
The Portuguese star has quickly established himself as an indispensable part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, forming a strong partnership with Paul Pogba in the centre of the park.
But convincing Fernandes that Old Trafford is the place to be over the next few years may prove difficult, given Manchester City’s continued excellence in the Premier League and United’s underachievement in Europe.
Success in the Europa League, starting with victory in the first leg of their semi-final against Roma tonight, could be key to keeping Fernandes at the club — as could retaining Pogba this summer.
Fernandes, 26, will reportedly not sign a new contract until his French midfield partner has done the same.
As things stand, Pogba will be able to leave on a free transfer next year, with his current deal set to expire in June 2022.
His future has been in doubt for some time, but Fernandes is clearly of the view that United need the 28-year-old in order to make further progress.
That feeling appears to be mutual and Pogba spoke last month about the understanding he has with Fernandes on the pitch.
He said: “I enjoy playing with Bruno. He’s someone who understands the game and understands the movement that can give you a beautiful pass. He can finish, too. He’s all over the place, he can do everything really — except defending!
“But really, it’s always a joy to play with him, to understand him. He understands me as well, he can take my position, I can take his position. I think he suits the team, he’s a very dominant influence in our team.”
There is certainly a sense that Pogba is playing with more freedom when alongside United’s No18.
Prior to the arrival of Fernandes, the burden of creativity was often on Pogba’s shoulders. He was expected to provide assists and carry the team forward.
That did not quite happen and the former Juventus man was often made the scapegoat.
Now, though, the focus is not solely on Pogba’s productivity, certainly not in terms of the numbers he is posting.
A creative duo
When Fernandes is creating an average of 0.6 big chances per 90 minutes — the third most in the Premier League — and has a total of 14 assists in all competitions, why would anyone turn questioningly to Pogba?
That form has allowed the France international to thrive. He is now playing with the kind of freedom and exuberance that has been stifled for so long.
And the assists have also started to flow for him. Pogba has set up three in his last six Premier League appearances.
It is no wonder Fernandes is keen for this burgeoning creative partnership to flourish for years to come.
Both players can certainly help each other. They are world-class talents, capable of winning matches with moments of individual brilliance.
But doing so independently is a challenge for even the most gifted, determined players.
Together, Fernandes and Pogba could carry Manchester United into a new era. A time of trophies and renewed success.
Neither can do it alone.