The former Red Devils striker admits a Portuguese playmaker has exceeded expectations, with there now the threat of interest being shown from afar
Manchester United have been warned by Andy Cole that Bruno Fernandes’ head could be turned by Barcelona and Real Madrid if they suffer any more Champions League disappointments.
The Red Devils returned to European football’s grandest stage in 2020-21, but failed to make it through the group stage and into the last 16.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are having to make do with the consolation prize of a spot in the Europa League as a result, with Real Sociedad set to be faced in the last 32 of that competition.
Fernandes will have a key role to play for United in that continental quest, along with efforts to secure another top-four finish in the Premier League.
Cole admits to having been left pleasantly surprised by the impact a Portuguese playmaker has made at Old Trafford, with the 26-year-old exceeding expectations.
The former Red Devils striker told The Target Men Podcast: “I’m very surprised to see how quickly Bruno Fernandes has taken to the Premier League since he joined Manchester United.
“Bruno Fernandes joined the club for a big fee and I have to say I didn’t know too much about him.
“I wondered if he was going to be able to continue scoring goals and producing assists at the same rate this season now that clubs knew more about him, but he’s arguably been even better!
“Bruno Fernandes doesn’t wear the captain’s armband but anyone watching this Manchester United team can see that he is the leader of the dressing room and he leads by example on the pitch. He’s a world-class quality player.”
While hailing Fernandes’ importance to the United cause, Cole is aware that said qualities will be attracting admiring glances from afar.
With that in mind, it is considered imperative that the Red Devils continue to force their way into contention for major honours and prevent any exit doors from being edged open.
“The concern for Manchester United is that Bruno Fernandes has well and truly put himself on the map now,” Cole added.
“It’s probably only a matter of time until there are rumours of a Barcelona and Real Madrid being interested in signing him and if Manchester United continue to not perform in the Champions League, no-one knows if his head could be turned in the years ahead.”
Fernandes, who has contributed 23 goals and 14 assists to the United cause through 40 appearances, is tied to a contract at Old Trafford through to the summer of 2024 – with the option there for a further 12-month extension beyond that point.