The Manchester United playmaker has shown himself to be almost unique in terms of the Premier League over the past 14 months, playing with a high-risk, high-reward style that makes him one of the most creative players of the league, but also a midfielder with a relatively low success rate.
United’s forwards have now learned that they need to be on the move and ready to receive the ball as soon as Fernandes is in possession of the ball. His first thought is always to look for a killer pass, one that will open the game up for his team and try to create a big chance.
It may lead him to lose the ball, but United are willing to accept the risks given the rewards they have offered them, with 35 goals and 21 assists in 67 appearances for the club.
If there is one problem for United, it’s that they are still too dependent on the Portugal international for creativity. While Luke Shaw has become an attacking threat on the left, most of United’s attacking play still goes through Fernandes, with the top three tending to be scorers rather than creators at the moment.
Donny van de Beek has had a disappointing first season at Old Trafford, but rather than trying to sign cover for Fernandes, United can use their search for offensive reinforcements to sign another player with a maverick streak that Fernandes is familiar with. good.
Pursuing a right winger is not as urgent an issue as it was a year ago for United after the additions of youngsters Amad and Facundo Pellistri. It was disappointing that they didn’t sign Jadon Sancho in the summer of 2020, but United could find that they have goals in other positions now, especially center-forward and center-back.
But both newcomers remain inexperienced, which means there is still a lack of depth on the right and this is an area that will need to be looked at under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Rather than relaunching a move for Sancho, when Borussia Dortmund’s real priority target is likely to be Erling Haaland, United may try to poach a player who has impressed for one of their rivals this season.
Raphinha has been one of the stars of an exciting Leeds United side under Marcelo Bielsa. The 24-year-old Brazilian has six goals and five assists in 25 appearances in his first season at Elland Road and his right-wing style has drawn attention.
He played with Fernandes at Sporting Lisbon in the 2018/19 season and it’s a campaign the current United man has not forgotten.
“Raphinha, I miss Raphinha,” he said in December 2019 to Top Mercato.
“He’s a player with whom I had a different chemistry from others. He understood me at a glance.
“He knew, depending on the movement of my body, where I was going to put the ball to him.
“I also miss him because he brought joy to the locker room. He is also a responsible and hardworking person. ”
You would think United’s attack could only be improved by signing a player who knows Fernandes so well, especially someone who has had a season to get used to the Premier League.
Leeds are unlikely to want to part ways with the winger but he has been a bit of a butterfly in his career so far and the lure of Champions League football and Manchester United could be hard to refuse.
Since leaving Brazil, Raphinha has played 41 games for Sporting before moving to Rennes, where he played 36 games before his move to Leeds last summer. He looks like a player in a hurry to reach the top.
Distinguishing players from your rivals can be difficult, but United have done it before. Eric Cantona swapped Elland Road for Old Trafford in 1992, Rio Ferdinand did the same a decade later, and Alan Smith in 2004.
There haven’t been since and United’s budget this summer will be impacted again by the pandemic, they will have been focused on Solskjaer’s biggest priorities, but Raphinha could certainly be a generic option for the right.