Bruno Fernandes has more goals, assists, passes and shots than Kevin De Bruyne since his debut 11 months ago – and is No 1 in the Premier League for goal involvements… so is he MORE influential on his team than his attacking rival is at Manchester City?
- Bruno Fernandes has transformed Manchester United since arriving last year
- The Portuguese is playing so well now he is in PFA Player of the Year contention
- He is being compared against Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne
- Fernandes tops 11 of 15 categories when used to compare the two midfielders
- Sportsmail looks closer at the impact of the players to see who is really the No 1
In Premier League history, only one player has been directly involved in more goals in their first 30 games than Bruno Fernandes. One. That’s it.
Not Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard or Sergio Aguero, no. Interestingly the only man to outperform Fernandes over his first 30 games also pulled on a Manchester United shirt.
It was Andy Cole, edging out Fernandes’ 33 goal involvements (19 goals, 14 assists), who had 28 goals and nine assists – totalling 37 – to take the crown as the most impactful player in the 29-year history of the Premier League.
Bruno Fernandes (left) is rivalling Kevin De Bruyne (right) as the best player in the league
Fernandes has been electric since he took to the field for his United debut against Wolves on February 1, 2020.
That 90 minutes won’t make the final cut of his 2020 highlights reel but he showed flashes then and has not stopped shining ever since.
So, in a world where Fantasy Football has fans assuming the role as manager, the question has been posed: do you take Fernandes or Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne if you only get one playmaker?
The two will go head-to-head on Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup semi-final between the Manchester clubs and this question will be pursed on the lips of many as the debate rages on.
De Bruyne is a sublime player, a world class talent that showed in 2019-20 his level of influence having finished with 20 league assists.
And yet here stands Fernandes, a transformative individual who has catapulted United back into genuine title contention. Influence? You need to go some to top that.
‘I think Fernandes has already overtaken De Bruyne,’ ex-West Ham striker Dean Ashton mused on talkSPORT last week.
‘You can see the difference when [Sergio] Aguero doesn’t play for Man City. You can see the difference in De Bruyne, in terms of he looks like a frustrated figure in a lot of the games.
‘He’s still class, of course, as he’s got eight assists this season and Bruno has seven.
Fernandes’ impact on team-mates is evident in the improved performances fans are seeing
‘It’s that goal tally I think that Fernandes brings you. That goal threat that’s the difference between him and Kevin De Bruyne and that’s why I’d pick him and why I think he’s gone ahead of him as, for me, the best player in the Premier League.’
Fernandes is the heartbeat United have become increasingly reliant on.
Take their trip to West Ham on December 5 when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the brave – in the eyes of some, the foolish – decision to bench Fernandes, allow him some rest ahead of a Champions League fixture.
United were abject, second to 50/50 balls and seemingly devoid of ideas.
Pablo Fornals almost scored 32 minutes in, then Jarrod Bowen hit the post, and, eventually, they took a deserved lead through Tomas Soucek as he tapped in Declan Rice’s flick-on from a corner.
Solskjaer had seen enough, on came Fernandes at half-time and it was his assist for Paul Pogba that sealed the equaliser. From there the side were transformed, going on to win 3-1. Influence.
De Bruyne’s impact is seen most when he is out of the side and City’s win rate plummets
Fernandes is second in Premier League history for goal involvements in first 30 league games
Part of the allure for both Fernandes and De Bruyne is the eye test, the effortless nature of their play making them so influential and also such a pleasure to watch.
Stylistically they can be different. De Bruyne is more economical with the ball, leans more on creation than his own goal tally whereas Fernandes is seen to take more risks which in turn can lead to more turnovers in possession.
But stats can also be telling and in this case they are important in finding the margins separating the two.
Since February 1, 2020, in the Premier League, Fernandes has 19 goals to his name, 10 more than that of De Bruyne. He has 14 assists to the Belgian’s 13 and has taken 95 shots to the City star’s 81 in that time.
In fact, in his Premier League career Fernandes has been involved in a goal every 75.6 minutes. So good are his returns that he is statistically in the thick of it in every match he plays in. For De Bruyne his goal involvement checks in every 95 minutes.
‘Bruno helps everyone – on and off the pitch,’ Aaron Wan-Bissaka recently told United Review.
‘He tells me before the game what he thinks I should do and which positions he thinks I should get into when he gets the ball, and where I should be.
‘He has done it with the other players, and I can see that, along with the impact that he has made. When I scored my goal [against Newcastle], he said he couldn’t believe I could shoot! That goal there was to show him!’
Since his league debut 11 months ago, Fernandes (left) has been involved in a goal for United every 75.6 minutes. In contrast, De Bruyne (right) is involved for City every 95 minutes
Team-mates feed off him, hang on his words when things look to be going awry. There is plenty of youth in United’s dressing room and Fernandes is a much a performer as he is a mentor to those in the infancy of their careers. Influence.
The miscalculation at West Ham should have come as no surprise to Solskjaer, not if he’d have checked the stats.
In 2019-20, United had just a 37.5 per cent win rate without Fernandes in the team. When he stepped into the side it increased to 64.3 per cent.
City have seen an equally stark contrast when De Bruyne is out of the side in recent seasons and his consistency played a role in many crowning him the best player in the entire league.
In the past two league campaigns De Bruyne has been left out of the starting line-up eight times and City’s win rate collapsed in those matches.
Without De Bruyne to play the role of conductor, City’s win-rate went down from 70 per cent with him to 37.5 per cent without him.
It really feels like splitting hairs to work out the more valuable asset to their respective team at times.
Fifteen comparable areas since Fernandes stepped into the league has seen him outperform his rival in 11 categories: games played, minutes played, goals, minutes-per-goal, assists, goal involvements, minutes-per-goal-involvement, passes, total shots, shots on target and shot conversion rate.
De Bruyne has created more ‘big chances’ for his team and it showed in victory at Chelsea
Paul Scholes, seen in 2003, believes Fernandes can go on to be better than him at United
The feather in De Bruyne’s cap is creation which, to many, remains unrivalled.
The Belgian has made 322 fewer passes since Fernandes arrived in the league and yet has a better completion rate – completing 80.66 per cent of his passes to team-mates.
There are times when his through balls defy belief, a ball that befits the old cliche of threading through the eye of a needle.
Creation is the area whereby De Bruyne can boast a sizeable advantage over his Portuguese rival. The City playmaker has created a total of 96 chances since February 2020, with 25 ‘big chances’ created.
The Premier League define a ‘big chance’ as providing an opportunity ‘where the receiving player would reasonably be expected to score’ and is able to get a shot away. Often these are one-on-one scenarios or efforts from very close range.
De Bruyne’s 25 dwarfs the 13 posted by Fernandes so far. And yet the two feel neck-and-neck, Fernandes perhaps even feeling he has already surpassed the Belgian to be the King of Manchester.
‘What’s he’s doing is phenomenal, really,’ Scholes told United’s Tunnel Insider show on December 28 when quizzed on Fernandes’ impact.
‘I think if you look, since he’s been [at the club], United would be top of the league if they won their game in hand, with more points than Liverpool, which is strange to think really because they’ve had such a bad start to the season.
‘Well, you thought it was a bad start to the season, but they’re still right in there and I think they can only get better. The numbers he has produced are just ridiculous. Let’s hope he carries on.’
The Portuguese takes more shots than De Bruyne and that is reflected in his better goal return
Scholes scored 155 goals in 718 matches during a stellar United career that spanned 19 seasons and won him every major honour. He had influence, he knows the role inside out and yet he believes Fernandes can usurp him.
‘He’s better than me. He’s different to me. He scores more goals than me, he creates more goals than me,’ Scholes added. ‘I’d like to play with him, probably behind him would be alright. But no, he’s been sensational, a big difference.’
Both men deserve – and require – a host of superlatives to describe their game.
De Bruyne is on the verge of cracking the top 10 all-time Premier League assists chart while Fernandes has hauled United from their post-Ferguson slumber and back into title contention. Both have shown themselves to be pied pipers for team-mates.
But right now this feels like Fernandes’ moment, the crown in his hands until he is ready to relinquish it.
Pundits and fans have not seen this level of influence and impact at Old Trafford in decades, not since the Eric Cantona in the eyes of Paul Ince.
‘When I look at Cantona, we had already won the Cup Winners’ Cup against Barcelona and the FA Cup so we weren’t that far away, it was just the league that was eluding us at that time,’ Ince said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
Ince admitted he sees comparisons between Fernandes and United legend Eric Cantona
‘I had seen Eric play in the Charity Shield at Wembley when he scored a hat-trick [for Leeds against Liverpool] and thought that he looked a decent player, let’s see what he looks like when he comes to Old Trafford.
‘He walks in, 6ft 3in, a statue of a man, with a massive presence about him. He just sat there and belonged at Old Trafford.
‘He came in and knitted us all together. He was that missing piece in the jigsaw. The goals he created, he made everyone raise their game. I think that is what Fernandes has done.’
Fernandes and De Bruyne will joust at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, the heavyweights on the card that everyone is desperate to see.
Both men hold the keys to taking their side to the Carabao Cup final. It will come down to influence, on the game and on team-mates, and right now nobody is showcasing a bigger impact than the Portuguese who has taken the keys to Old Trafford.
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