Man Utd have a new Cantona and his rare gifts could earn club top four spot

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Managers are notoriously wary of putting too much pressure on new signings.

But in the case of Manchester United’s£47million midfielder Bruno Fernandes, Reds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no such concerns.

Ahead of this game, Solskjaer compared Fernandes to United legend Paul Scholes, in terms of his vision, passing range, goal threat and overall influence.

Some players would wilt against the backdrop of such high praise, but Fernandes is not a player to be cowed by pressure and expectation, as he proved with his match-winning display.

Fernandes was United’s best player by some distance, orchestrating the convincing victory which took Solskjaer’s side up to fifth and kept them in the hunt for a Champions League place.

With Paul Pogba having spent most of the season sidelined by injury, not to mention his desire to leave, United been crying out for a player with the guile and creativity to make a difference.

Fernandes has only made four appearances, but is already a cult hero with United fans and even has his own chant, comparing him to another Old Trafford legend and arrival from Sporting Lisbon in Cristiano Ronaldo.

Time will tell if the 25-year-old can have a similar impact at United as his Portugal team-mate and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo – or indeed Scholes.


But the early signs are that United have signed a player of rare gifts in Fernandes, whose singing could ultimately give Solskjaer’s side the edge in the race for a Champions League place.

In a season when United have missed four of nine penalties, the way Fernandes converted from the spot in the 42nd-minute, a stuttered staccato run-up before rolling the ball in, suggested they will have no more concerns from 12 yards.

Fernandes has converted his last 13 penalties – 12 for his former club – and has not missed from the spot for four years, illustrating his coolness under pressure.

Watford, fighting for Premier League survival, thought they had equalised in the 53rd minute when Troy Deeney took advantage of slack United defending to score from close range.


But the visitors saw the goal chalked off after VAR intervened and ruled it out for a handball from Craig Dawson in the build-up, although replays seemed to show it had come off his right shoulder.

Having won and dispatched the penalty, having been brought down by Ben Foster, Fernandes then turned provider for Anthony Martial, two minutes before the hour.

Martial produced a moment of impudent skill and an outrageous finish to dink the ball over Ben Foster for his 15th goal of the season and his third in as many games.

Fernandes showed his elegance on the ball again with 20 minutes to go, curling a majestic cross into the area for United skipper Harry Maguire, who was unable to keep his header on target.


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