Former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra says that he and Cristiano Ronaldo were quick to recommend Bruno Fernandes to manager Ole Gunnar Solakjer ahead of the Portuguese midfielder’s January move.
Fernandes made the move to Old Trafford this winter, joining the Red Devils from Sporting CP in a €55 million (£47m/$60m) move.
The midfielder has started strong with the club, rapidly becoming a key figure under Solskajer.
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Fernandes has already scored 12 goals in 22 matches for the club, helping Man Utd seal a top-four finish while reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.
And Evra says that, although Man Utd aren’t ready to challenge for Premier League titles just yet, Fernandes’ addition has been a step in the right direction for the club in the quest to return to that level.
“United can’t challenge Liverpool or Man City. Not yet. There’s been massive damage but we’re moving in the right direction,” Evra told the Guardian.
“When they wanted to sign Bruno Fernandes, Ole texted me. I asked for advice from Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano says: ‘Bruno’s a good guy and very professional.’
“I say: ‘Ole, I’ve spoken with Cristiano. Let’s go for it.’ And Fernandes had a massive impact. Without him, I don’t think we would have qualified for the Champions League.”
While Fernandes’ on-the-field impact has been massive, Evra says that the most important thing the midfielder has brought is something else.
With Fernandes now a key figure, Evra says that Paul Pogba is playing more freely, allowing the French star to flourish now that he has a partner that can command attention.
“Paul’s really misunderstood. People talk more about his hairstyle but he’s a great kid, a shy boy actually,” Evra said.
“It was important for Fernandes to relieve that attention on Paul. It wasn’t fair. Paul is a happy person and we have been close so long. He Facetimed me yesterday at 11:30 pm. I said: ‘Paul, I’m in bed. Let me sleep.’”
Evra also added that he believes Solskjaer is the right man to bring trophies back to Old Trafford, with the former Man Utd striker guiding the club to a top-four spot in his first full season in charge.
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“United have qualified for the Champions League. It’s not a big achievement but it’s massive progress from where we’ve come,” he said.
“I love Ole. One game we’re on the bench and I started talking. He said: ‘Patrice. I’m focused.’
“He would analyse everything so he knows which defender is getting tired. That’s why we called him the Babyfaced Assassin. He helped United win the Champions League [as a player in 1999] that way.”
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