Bruno Fernandes has rejected the notion that he fails to turn up in big games, instead insisting that he can handle the pressure of leading Manchester United forward.
The 26-year-old has been the standout player for the Red Devils this season, continuing the sparkling form he’s shown ever since his arrival from Sporting CP.
Fernandes has contributed 40 Premier League goal involvements – 23 goals and 17 assists – in the 41 games he’s played in so far, but has often been accused of failing to perform against sides from the so-called ‘big six’.
He’s also been criticised for his goal output relying on a high number of penalties; he’s scored only two non-penalties in his last 13 games. This Sunday sees Fernandes take on the biggest challenge available in English football, as United travel to runaway league leaders and noisy neighbours Manchester City.
Speaking before the game, in an interview with Sky Sports, Fernandes said he can’t understand some of the criticism levelled towards him, remarking that there are inconsistencies in what people say about him.
“I don’t know what people mean by ‘top six’, because the teams are in top six in the table,” Fernandes said. “I score and assist against some of them. I score this season against Tottenham. But some people say penalties don’t count!
“I know people expect Bruno to score or assist in every game because when I arrived, I was playing really well. If you see my stats, everyone is thinking that Bruno has to score in every game, Bruno has to assist in every game.
“And I want to do that – it’s the most important thing. But as a player, I don’t look for the big six or the rest of the league. I look for every game in the same way. And I think the league is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So you don’t have to score or win against the big six – you have to score and win against everyone.”
Fernandes continued by arguing that many fail to see good performances for what they really are, and instead rely on goals and assists to determine whether or not a player is influencing games positively.
“I saw an interview from Luke [Shaw] saying, ‘people now care more about stats than the performance’. And this is the truth. Because now they’re expecting from me just goals and assists, and not performances.
“They don’t care about the performance of Bruno, they don’t care about ball recovery or how many chances I create, because I can create 10 chances but if I don’t score, people will say Bruno didn’t play very well.
“But this is football. Football is in the moment. Some people have said I’m playing bad, and that I have to do better. And I agree, because we always can do better. But for me, it’s OK. I can have that pressure on my back. I’m sure in some moments, I will score, I will assist, and I will perform. And that will help my team-mates to win the game.”