Sat. Jan 23rd, 2021

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Bruno Fernandes living up to Cantona and Ronaldo comparison at Man United

4 min read

There was a confidence about Manchester United that the add-ons in Bruno Fernandes’s contract were so improbable they would not end up shelling out the full €80million and it is just as well Sporting Lisbon did not insist on a penalty clause.

Twelve of Fernandes’s 19 United goals have come from the white dot and his only recorded miss was at Newcastle, for Keylor Navas and Sam Johnstone strayed off their line before they being beaten by retakes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to know Fernandes would have a second shot on Saturday before referee David Coote. He hollered Fernandes’ name before the referee made the ‘third umpire’ review signal to confirm Johnstone had erred and Fernandes, also seemingly numbed by the maddening Video Assistant Referee, did not so much celebrate his conversion as dismiss the whole charade.

Fernandes was swamped by his teammates but did not crack a smile and, appropriately, his compatriot occasionally greeted moments of apparent happiness with a narked frown during his United career. Cristiano Ronaldo’s muted reaction to lashing the ball past West Brom ‘keeper Scott Carson in 2008 was analysed on Match of the Day after Real Madrid had failed to prise him that summer and Richard Keys was still referencing it 11 days later when Ronaldo phlegmatically reacted to a tap-in against West Ham. Possibly because he had just been upstaged by Dimitar Berbatov’s balletic swivel.

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Manchester United ground out a 1-0 win over West Brom to finally notch a victory at home in the Premier League this season.

It wasn’t pretty but it means two successive wins for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who have to balance league and Champions League commitments over a busy period in the coming weeeks.

MEN Sport will bring you all the reaction and analysis from United’s win against West Brom and you can have it all delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter. Just put your email address in the sign-up box at the top of this article, or simply follow this link. It’s free and only takes a few seconds.

There was an 11-game period where Ronaldo went without scoring in his final United season and he ended the drought from 12 yards against Derby to confirm a League Cup final date. Ronaldo embodied all the joy of someone who had won a penny on a scratch card, for it was only the League Cup, it was only Derby, it was only a penalty and it was only Roy Carroll in net.

More pleasing was his decisive spotkick to beat Everton the next month and Old Trafford was uproarious after he sparked the coruscating comeback against Tottenham later that season. Fernandes has had a crowd for just one of his Old Trafford goals and United were so uninspiring to watch on Saturday he was not going to execute a knee-slide.

Fernandes has already struck as many penalties for United in 10 months as the dependable Denis Irwin did in six years. Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona were such expert penalty-takers that Irwin did not step up to the spot until four-and-a-half years into his United career against Wrexham in the FA Cup fourth round in 1995. Irwin was required as Cantona had introduced his studs to the foul-mouthed Matthew Simmons at Selhurst Park three days earlier.

Irwin was denied only twice from regulation time penalties (by Aston Villa’s Michael Oaks and Craig Forrest of West Ham) and Cantona also erred twice against Leeds and Blackburn, games he still went on to score in. All but one of Cantona’s 18 conversions sent the ‘keeper the wrong way.

Blasphemous though it sounds, Fernandes garnered credible comparisons with Cantona for galvanising United midway through last season from matchgoers present for the breakthrough championship of 1993. The glaring difference is Cantona had a miniature Premier League trophy after his first 10 months and its crown was placed on his head on coronation night.

In the first season of VAR, United were awarded 22 across all competitions in 2019-20 and 14 in the Premier League – a record in the competition’s history. They have already received seven this term (and conceded three, with two overturned against West Brom and Brighton). Fernandes is on course to surpass the hauls of Ronaldo and Cantona before crowds return.

Ronaldo netted 16 from the spot (and failed three times) and the patchy Wayne Rooney succeeded 27 times. Fernandes has some way to go to match the record 28 spotkicks Ruud van Nistelrooy tallied in five years.

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