It usually takes time for a player to make a team his own following a transfer. However, there are occasions, rare ones, when a new signing immediately becomes the man.
Eric Cantona, for example, was signed from Leeds United at the end of November 1992 and he was scoring goals for Manchester United by the middle of December. He was the catalyst for the Red Devils and played an instrumental role in Sir Alex Ferguson claiming his first Premier League title.
Robin Van Persie had a similarly transformative impact when he made the switch to Old Trafford. There was big pressure following his move from Arsenal but he scored with his first shot as a United player in the 3-2 win over Fulham. His goals, all 26 of them during the 2012/13 campaign, helped Ferguson’s men romp to the Premier League title, wrestling the crown away from neighbours Manchester City.
"He sees things they'll never see…" ?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 9, 2020
Bruno Fernandes has made quite the impression at United following his long-awaited move from Sporting. Following his assist in the Manchester derby, the £50million signing has five goal involvements in as many Premier League appearances.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men are unbeaten in the Portuguese midfielder's eight appearances in all competitions. He’s already being compared to club legends.
Paul Scholes heaped praise on Fernandes in only his second week as a United player: “He looks a special talent, he looks like he can be a hero with the fans as well.
“He's got the right name for it with the song and stuff. You think of your Cantonas, your Wayne Rooneys, these people who are idolised by the fans, you hope that in future he can become a player just as good as them.”
— Professional Footballers' Association (@PFA) March 9, 2020
When the Uruguayan rocked up at Anfield in January 2011, it was considered a coup for a club then struggling in their own, sizeable, shadow. It was clear Suárez could perform on a bigger stage but, for various reasons, clubs weren’t prepared to gamble on him. Liverpool capitalised on that doubt.
Suárez scored on his debut. It wasn't the greatest of goals but it was an immediate impact. It wasn’t long before the Reds were his team and he was creating chaos on a regular basis. Their new No.7 helped lift the club from 12th to sixth. He followed his first half-season with 17 goals from 39 appearances as (Sir) Kenny Dalglish guided Liverpool to two cup finals.
At the time, the Merseysiders weren’t great. Charlie Adam was patrolling the middle third, Jay Spearing was making the odd appearance and Stewart Downing was tasked with supplying the ammunition for Andy Carroll. Suárez was singlehandedly keeping Liverpool relevant. They managed to capitalise on that and, eventually, rebuild.
While United haven't hit those lows, they were edging towards it. They’ve overspent on mediocre players. Paul Pogba was eager to leave and it appeared another season in the Europa League was on the cards.
But Fernandes’ arrival has sparked United into life. His confidence is rubbing off on his team-mates and his arrogance is giving them a belief that not only can they gatecrash the top four, they deserve to be there.
He has been fortunate since the switch to Old Trafford. His goal against Everton should’ve been dealt with, for example. But the moment of brilliance against Manchester City epitomises Fernandes as a player. It showcased exactly why he’s the difference-maker for the Red Devils and why he can be the poster boy for Solskjær’s inexperienced United side.
Plenty of players would have had the vision to spot Anthony Martial’s run. Few have the ability to execute such a pass, though. The 25-year-old’s brilliance played a part in United cutting Chelsea’s lead in fourth to just three points.
And this moment of magic wasn't a one-off. Since arriving at Old Trafford on transfer deadline day, Fernandes is in the Premier League top ten for goals, shots, assists, chances created and final third passes by midfielders. He is United's creative hub. The main man for the Red Devils. He knows it, the players know it, opponents know it and the fans do, too.
If he manages to drag United into the top four then he will have to go down as one of the signings of the season. Solskjær needed a few fairly large jigsaw pieces to get this side back on track. Fernandes' arrival and impact has made his job a lot easier than it initially was.