After days of dithering, Manchester United wasted no time at all in showcasing their latest toy at Old Trafford.
“He’s already made an impact with his demeanour, his big smile,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of Bruno Fernandes on Saturday, the midfielder no doubt grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of a home debut against a Wolves side containing five compatriots.
United fans, with thoughts of a mass walkout in protest against the ownership apparently forgotten, gave their new £46.5million man a huge ovation as his name was announced, along with the customary cheer when he first touched the ball.
It proved to be an encouraging if ineffective debut, as United failed to make the most of second-half territorial dominance against Wolves, the 0-0 draw marking the third time in a row they have been held at home in the league by Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Fernandes was certainly not guilty of not trying. He had more shots (five), more shots on target (three) and attempted more passes (88) than any of his team-mates. He nearly found his range from the dead ball, too.
Let’s examine the highlights – and disappointments – of Fernandes’ first Premier League game…
33′: Wolves were perhaps the better side in the first half, United’s attack giving Rui Patricio’s goal little trouble. Fernandes was the first to give him something to worry about, his swerving strike from outside the box bending a yard or so past the right-hand post.
40′: Fernandes had found some rhythm by this stage and he nearly capped a good half with a debut goal, his powerful strike from the edge of the area from Luke Shaw’s cut-back ultimately giving Patricio a routine save as it went down the middle.
46′: Solskjaer talked up Fernandes’ leadership qualities when the deal finally got over the line, and they were on show when he emerged from the tunnel for the second half giving pointed instructions to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
55′: Fernandes built a reputation in Portugal for refusing to shirk a challenge, and he was in the book for a cynical tug on Raul Jimenez, who was trying to launch a counter-attack.
58′: Despite being a good 35 yards from goal, Fernandes tried his luck with a free-kick. He struck it superbly but, given the distance, Patricio made a relatively comfortable save high to his right.
67′: With United now dominant but unable to pick their way through the Wolves rearguard, Fernandes tried a speculative effort that did at least force a corner after a Patricio fumble. He then took it short, but his eventual cross was poor.
78′: Fernandes, who started as a number 10, was a little deeper in the second half but pressed high to draw an error from Matt Doherty that almost forced the opening goal, Mason Greenwood’s shot taking a double deflection before ending up in Patricio’s grateful grasp.
80′: After another short United corner, Fernandes tried a tricky pass to Juan Mata that allowed Wolves to counter and win a corner of their own. By this stage, he looked to be tiring.
90+3′: Wolves threatened a dramatic winner after a rare second-half foray forward, but Fernandes was on hand to make a timely clearance from inside his own penalty area.
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