In what was an emphatic FA Cup fourth round tie between Manchester United and Liverpool, Bruno Fernandes stepped up to the plate and delivered a masterclass cameo to place the Red Devils into the next round.
A wonderfully taken free kick on the edge of the area was enough in the end to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s players make it into the next round against West Ham United, which will also be at Old Trafford.
In comparison to the Premier League meeting just 10 days ago between these two sides, the FA Cup match had twists and turns every step of the way. Liverpool looked a lot more expressive in their passing and had a fair amount of chances in the first half to cause significant damage.
Both of Mohamed Salah’s goals came through a lack of concentration on Manchester United’s part – sloppy defending and trying to overcomplicate playing out from the back. There seems to always be room for a mistake at least once per game.
Bruno Fernandes is undoubtedly Manchester United's most important player
With the game level heading into the final 25 minutes, Fernandes was summoned to enter the game by Solskjaer, who had said he stayed behind after training was finishing the night before to specifically practice his free kicks.
Fernandes had been criticised slightly for his ineffectiveness in the previous match, suggesting that he couldn’t truly deliver when it mattered. However, it didn’t take him long to dispel that myth with his sensational winning goal.
In fact, Bruno Fernandes quite easily could have added an assist to his name if Edinson Cavani could have finished what was a beautiful constructed cross right in the heart of Liverpool’s box.
It wasn’t an easy chance, and Cavani did hit the post, but the Uruguay international is known for being a world-class forward in the box and was so close to closing off the game beyond any doubt.
There is an aura to Bruno Fernandes when he plays for Manchester United – a level of presence only some truly possess and was arguably last seen when Wayne Rooney was at the peak of his powers or Cristiano Ronaldo was playing at Old Trafford.
Many Manchester United greats have come and gone, but Bruno Fernandes has a level of composure that has not been seen in nearly a decade when in the final third. His sheer determination in trying to recover the ball and consistently play on the front foot is second to none.
It is quite clear that the Portuguese star is a huge influence in the dressing room at Manchester United, and while he might not wear the captain’s armband, the players respect his every decision and command.
If Manchester United are to truly compete and go the distance for the Premier League, one of their most important assets will be Bruno Fernandes. His drive, quality and never-give-up attitude is what could carry the club over the line for the first time in eight years.