Bruno Fernandes is targeting more individual honours after being named Manchester United’s Player of the Year for a second straight season but wants to supplement such accolades with team trophies.
Fernandes followed in the footsteps of United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Portugal international became only the fifth player in United history to win the club’s annual award in consecutive campaigns.
Roy Keane and David de Gea have also received the distinction in back-to-back years.
Fernandes claimed the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year gong on Tuesday after receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters; Luke Shaw came in second place on 21 per cent.
He edged out Anthony Martial to last year’s award despite only signing for United in January 2020, having made a huge immediate impact.
Fernandes came out on top in another category, Goal of the Season, for his sublime chip against Everton in February, but it was the main prize that was the focus of an interview with the club’s in-house TV station in the wake Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Fulham.
Asked when it meant to win the Player of the Year, he said: “A lot. I always said that individual trophies are really good for players. It lifts you up, I would never say I don’t want individual trophies, but it’s not more important than a team trophy for me. But it’s always important.
“[It means] you’re doing something well, you’re doing something good, doing the right things means you can do a little bit more, improve a little bit more.
“But, at the same time it means that the people are liking you, like the way you play, the way you trying to help the team, the way you do things, so that’s very important for me.
“But more important than that is winning a trophy at the end of the season and this is what it’s about because football is a team sport and for me it’s about winning trophies.”
His double award win this season, added to his prize from 2019-20, mean Fernandes is creating a reasonable collection, not that he is concerned about running out of space.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get a bigger [trophy cabinet] if needed,” he joked.
After all, Fernandes could yet add further honours as the season approaches its conclusion, though his compatriot Ruben Dias of Manchester City appears to be the favourite for many of the Premier League’s end-of-campaign individual prizes.
Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful season for Fernandes, the aforementioned strike against Everton being one of 28 goals he has scored in all competitions this term, while he has also added 18 assists in a fine individual campaign.
Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists have come in 37 Premier League appearances, having featured in every top-flight game for United – though the assist credited to him against Fulham was questionable with replays unable to conclusively show that he did actually flick the ball on for Edinson Cavani’s remarkable effort.
Fernandes’ influence runs deeper than often being on hand to tuck home or play the final pass: he is a key cog in United’s overall build-up play, as highlighted by sequence data.
He has been involved in more open-play passing sequences that end in a shot (239) than any other Premier League player in 2020-21, while only Harry Kane (34) has had a hand in more moves that have ended in a goal (33 for Fernandes).
But the metrics that best underline Fernandes’ importance are ‘multi involvements’, which relate to a player featuring in the build-up to a shot-ending sequence as well as either creating the chance at the end of the move or taking the eventual shot.
On 21 occasions he has been the one taking the shot having previously played a part in the move, while his chances created at the end of such sequences stand at 25 – both are highs for the Premier League this season.
It means Fernandes holds incredible influence over how United attack, but also how they craft opportunities.
While they will finish second in the Premier League this term, fans will dread to think where they would be without him.