Manchester United: Where Jose Mourinho Would Be If He Hadn’t Left

At 21 years old, ahead of his England debut and being on the brink of switching to United’s cup games, he was used as a substitute in games against Luton and Tottenham. A career…

Manchester United: Where Jose Mourinho Would Be If He Hadn't Left

At 21 years old, ahead of his England debut and being on the brink of switching to United’s cup games, he was used as a substitute in games against Luton and Tottenham. A career that almost never saw the light of day was reborn.

“Louis van Gaal never lost faith in me” he said after his transfer to United. “He kept faith in me in all the games I played. If you come to United and you don’t play, and then you play well, then you know that is just part of the life here. Louis was always looking at his whole squad and he knew that I could make a difference here.”

His impact has been transformational and he has cemented his place as one of United’s most important players after a scintillating first season when he was quick to step up under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and made an impact in domestic cup matches. As well as scoring four league goals and 11 in the cups, Fernandes also set up 11 goals, including four assists, and United have won 12 of his 16 matches this season.

Only Paul Pogba with 18 has made more assists than Fernandes who is carrying Manchester United.

Fernandes was in his third year of Portuguese first-team football at Fluminense when he joined United in June 2015 after United played the Brazilian side in the Europa League. He was on loan at Sporting in Lisbon so his journey to United began when his agent called United’s recruitment department.

“At the time United were in the Europa League and the Blanquirroja was one of the favourites. They sent a scout to watch me play in Portugal and thought that he would be a good fit for United,” Fernandes said.

The initial reaction of his family and friends was ‘why?’ but now they are “worried” about the possible impending move. “I would say there is a constant balance in the house, both excited and nervous. It is complicated with this first season. Because I play for United, it is tough with friends and family. Everyone always loves United because of the history and now with the new manager (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer), but my family is trying to catch up on the years and the trophies. It has not been easy.”

His breakthrough was not set in stone. He started on the bench for United’s Carabao Cup tie at Brighton last season.

“I would say that the last two years have been a great evolution. That is how I would say my development. I improved a lot during those two years. I believe that everyone knows that I am a kind of player who always has the desire and desire to go for that goal or that assist and I enjoy it. So I think I can create goals and assist a lot of goals in the future as well.”

Juan Oquendo Tabata, Manchester United’s official Portuguese translator, contributed to this article.

John Lui was born in the UK and holds a degree in journalism from Nottingham Trent University. Lui has more than 16 years’ experience in journalism, including covering the Olympics, the Euro 2016 finals, the Commonwealth Games and England’s first FIFA World Cup win.

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