‘Game-changer’ Bruno bright­ens Ole’s outlook with bril­liant brace

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

BRIGHTON, Eng­land — Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer said Bruno Fer­nan­des has brought a win­ning men­tal­ity to Manch­ester United after his brace in­spired an im­pres­sive 3-0 win at Brighton on Tues­day.

Ca­joled by the daz­zling Fer­nan­des, United pro­duced one of its best per­for­mances of the sea­son at the Amex Sta­dium.

Ma­son Green­wood opened the scor­ing early in the first half and Fer­nan­des dou­bled the lead be­fore the in­ter­val.

Fer­nan­des net­ted again after half­time with a fine vol­ley as United climbed above Wolves on goal dif­fer­ence to take fifth place in the Premier League.

“Bruno has come and been fan­tas­tic. He has brought that win­ning men­tal­ity with him, that 99 per­cent is not good enough. It has to be 100 per­cent,” Sol­sk­jaer said.

“I’ve got more than one gamechange­r. The third goal was a great team goal. To see so many play­ers sprint­ing for­ward to get on the end of it was fan­tas­tic. A great fin­ish by Bruno.”

Sol­sk­jaer’s side was two points be­hind fourth-place Chelsea ahead of the Blues’ trip to West Ham on Wed­nes­day.

With fifth place se­cur­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Cham­pi­ons League if sec­ond-place Manch­ester City’s Euro­pean ban is up­held, United is in a strong po­si­tion to re­turn to the con­ti­nent’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion.

If it makes it, United will owe a huge debt of grat­i­tude to Fer­nan­des,

who has scored six goals since ar­riv­ing from Sport­ing Lis­bon in Jan­uary.

The Por­tu­gal mid­fielder’s role in re­vi­tal­iz­ing United can­not be un­der­stated.

It was mired in a ma­jor slump be­fore Fer­nan­des’ sign­ing, but is now on a 15-game un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing three suc­ces­sive wins.

“It’s a joy to watch them when you see them ex­press them­selves like that,” Sol­sk­jaer said.

“The con­fi­dence comes from per­for­mances. They worked hard dur­ing the lock­down and we know we have loads to play for.

“I don’t care about mak­ing a state­ment, I know we are a good team.”

United is also look­ing more solid at the back with eight clean sheets in its last 13 league matches.

With a run-in that in­cludes games against Bournemout­h, As­ton Villa and West Ham, Sol­sk­jaer’s men could en­joy a mem­o­rable conclusion to the cam­paign as it also chases suc­cess in the FA Cup and Europa League.

Brighton had taken four points from two games since the restart, eas­ing its rel­e­ga­tion fears, but this de­feat means it is not com­pletely safe yet.

Com­plete con­trol

Harry Maguire led United’s charge with a long pass to Paul Pogba, who in turn fed Fer­nan­des for a fierce drive that can­noned back off the post.

The 18-year-old Green­wood pro­duced a fine strike to open the scor­ing in the 16th minute. Cut­ting in from the right, Green­wood froze Lewis Dunk with a nim­ble stepover and drilled a low shot past Brighton keeper Mat Ryan.

“He’s a spe­cial tal­ent. He’s get­ting bet­ter. You can see clearly that he’s ma­tur­ing and im­prov­ing,” Sol­sk­jaer said of Green­wood.

“He’s still only 18 so we will see more from him.”

Green­wood’s 13th goal of the sea­son in all com­pe­ti­tions was the sig­nal for United to take com­plete con­trol.

Maguire al­most made it two with a header that looped nar­rowly wide and in the 29th minute Brighton cracked again.

Luke Shaw’s run unhinged the Seagulls’ de­fense and Pogba worked the ball back to Fer­nan­des, whose shot de­flected off Alexis Mac Al­lis­ter and squirmed past Ryan from the edge of the area.

Fer­nan­des wasn’t fin­ished yet and he put the game out of Brighton’s reach at the cli­max of a swag­ger­ing United counter in the 50th minute.

Ne­manja Matic’s cross-field pass sent Green­wood sprint­ing away down the left and the teenager un­furled a per­fect cross for Fer­nan­des to vol­ley past Ryan from 12 yards.

REUTERS

Paulo Dy­bala (front) cel­e­brates scor­ing Ju­ven­tus’ open­ing goal with Mi­ralem Pjanic dur­ing the Old Lady’s 3-1 vic­tory at Genoa on Tues­day. Chas­ing a record-ex­tend­ing ninth straight Serie A ti­tle, the vic­tory re­stored Juve’s four-point lead over sec­ond-place Lazio, which won 2-1 at Torino ear­lier on Tues­day.

REUTERS

Manch­ester United man­ager Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer con­grat­u­lates Bruno Fer­nan­des as the Portuguese star is sub­sti­tuted after his two-goal star­ring role in a 3-0 win at Brighton on Tues­day.

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