Fernandes has put pen to paper on a new contract worth £250,000-per-week which will run until 2026 despite still having three years left to run on his previous deal
Paul Merson has admitted he is “flabbergasted” at Manchester United’s decision to hand Bruno Fernandes a new long-term contract.
The Portuguese midfielder has signed an extension on his deal at Old Trafford which will run until 2026 with the option of a further year. Fernandes’ previous contract still had another three years to run but he has received a bumper pay rise, taking his salary from £120,000 to £250,000-per-week.
His new wage lifts him among United’s highest earners, ahead of the likes of Marcus Rashford and club captain Harry Maguire. Fernandes has been on of United’s key players since arriving in a £67million transfer from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020 following a long, drawn-out pursuit – but Merson can’t understand United’s motives.
“I’m flabbergasted if I’m being honest,” Merson said on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday. “You give him a four-year extension, more money, a manager comes in he might not like Fernandes, he might not like all the throwing the hands up, the moaning that he does when he doesn’t get the ball. He might have someone, it might be the lad at Ajax [Erik ten Hag], who’s got someone else and thinks ‘I’ve got someone who I want to bring in who wants to play my way’.
“I’m completely and utterly shocked. I cannot believe what’s happening. Everything is just being done off the cuff. It’s been being done off the cuff for the last couple of years at Man Utd.”
While Fernandes has endured a difficult campaign this season, United’s decision is arguably justified, given his contribution since his switch from Portugal. Only Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane have had more goal involvements in the Premier League since Fernandes pitched up on English shores.
Have United made the right decision in giving Fernandes a new contract? Have your say in the comments below.
So far in his United career, the 27-year-old has scored 49 times in 117 appearances, whilst also providing a significant number of assists. Crucially, however, Fernandes is yet to collect any silverware and has been a rare spark in an otherwise turbulent period in the club’s history, which has already seen him play for two different managers with another on the way.
Fernandes has adopted various roles during his time at United, though he has faced criticism this season for his inability to stick to a tactical plan. Reflecting after the 1-1 draw with Southampton in February, United legend Paul Scholes told BT Sport: “I think Fernandes could be a bit of a problem. As much as he’s a talented lad, when he first came to England, he scored so many good goals, so many assists, but he’s all over the football pitch.
“A coach will tell you better there from a defensive point of view. How can you set up a shape when you’ve no idea where the start of it? [Cristiano] Ronaldo is the start; then it’s Fernandes – how can you set traps for teams when you don’t know where some of your players are gonna be?
“[Paul] Pogba likes to wander about. You see Fernandes, sometimes he’s a right-back, sometimes left-back, the end of the game he’s playing behind [Diogo] Dalot for five minutes. They’re either not taking instructions on or they don’t want to.”
That has perhaps been an issue interim boss Ralf Rangnick has identified, given he has left Fernandes out of his starting XI already on occasion. Such tactical lapses will not wash with either of the leading contenders to take up Rangnick’s post in the summer either.
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag favours a structured, high-pressing model, with similarities to the style of Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, whose teams make every man count. Ten Hag may be able to get the best out of Fernandes, given he allows his advanced central midfielders a licence to get into spaces in the final third, though defensive duties are also a key responsibility of his philosophy.
Mauricio Pochettino adopts a similar strategy, though has become used to allowing key talisman to shirk some of their defensive responsibilities at Paris Saint-Germain, namely Neymar and Lionel Messi. Though Jamie Carragher recently warned that the days of giving flair players a free role are dying out.
Speaking even prior to PSG’s shock exit to Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16, Carragher said on CBS Sports: “”[They’re] two of the best players I’ve probably ever seen [Messi and Ronaldo], but to win the big trophies I don’t think you can carry players and say they’re not going to work hard or they’re not going to press off the ball.”
Neverthless, Rangnick feels tying down Fernandes long-term was an important step. “I think that’s very good news for the club, the fans, also for Bruno that he will kow he will be here for the next five years,” he said. “There’s no doubt that he’s a very important player for this club and in this team.”