Since Bruno Fernandes moved to England, Manchester United have evolved to become a highly competitive team who can win matches in a variety of different ways.
The Portuguese midfielder has had a dramatic impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, with the Red Devils currently placed second in the Premier League table after 22 games this season.
For perspective, after the same number of matches last year, United ranked fifth in the table with 10 fewer points.
This weekend, Fernandes’ side will come up against Everton at Old Trafford, with the Blues also raising their game since a certain high-profile midfielder arrived at the club from abroad in James Rodriguez.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are placed seventh in the league at the moment, with two games in hand which – if won – could deliver as high as third position.
Fernandes and Rodriguez have both had similar impacts on their new teams by predominantly operating between midfield and attack, and adding a degree of risk and penetration to the play.
United are now much more inclined to deliver high up the field, and that stems from Fernandes’ tendency to attempt passes that ultimately matter when it comes to winning games.
Rodriguez has offered comparable perks at Goodison Park by attempting tricky passes that his teammates would avoid, and by showcasing those valuable actions that matter.
The numbers can be used to capture what they are doing for their respective teams.
Per Statsbomb’s shot-creating actions metric – which covers the two offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls – Fernandes ranks third in the league on a per 90 basis, while Rodriguez places 14th.
The duo are the highest ranked players at United and Everton by those numbers, which indicates their importance.
Fernandes is averaging 0.29 goals per 90 (excluding penalties) while Rodriguez is posting 0.32 per 90. When it comes to assists, the former is averaging 0.44 per 90 compared to the latter’s 0.24 per 90.
The pair of midfielders are integral; they knit everything together at the business end of the field, and they are responsible for much of the offensive output that gets generated.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash, the player who influences proceedings the most is highly likely to deliver three points for his team.