On Sunday, Manchester United defeated their old rivals Leeds 4-2 at Elland Road.
It was a tense affair as the home side leveled the game 2-2 with a two-minute salvo, but United was able to reclaim control with goals from replacements Fred and Anthony Elanga.
Elanga’s goal, in particular, was outstanding, although it was mostly owing to the brilliance displayed by Bruno Fernandes before it. With his back to goal, the Portuguese midfielder produced a beautifully placed flick over the head of Pascal Struijk, who was then able to retrieve control as he sprinted around the Leeds defender, collected it, and played it to the onrushing Swedish winger.
United supporters may have puzzled why the skill looked so familiar, and the reason is that it is a technique that Paul Pogba famously pulls off to beat his marker on a pretty regular basis. It was on display in the first half against Adam Forshaw, as Pogba dominated the midfield fight.
And it appears that the Frenchman noticed, as he was seen approaching Fernandes at full time and laughing with the Portuguese playmaker that he had stolen his move before the two embraced in jubilation.
The friendship between Fernandes and Pogba has been evident since the Frenchman’s comeback from injury earlier this month, and it has also been evident on the football field.
The pair’s celebration after United defeated Brighton 2-0 at Old Trafford went viral on social media. Pogba took the free-kick quickly in the 97th minute, and Fernandes sprinted up the field and placed the ball beyond Robert Sanchez. Pogba was the first to greet a cheering Fernandes near the Stretford End corner flag, and their hug spoke volumes about their blossoming partnership. That was taken to a new level in Leeds.
Many United fans were concerned about the club’s balance with both Fernandes and Pogba in the same lineup, but in Ralf Rangnick’s 4-3-3 shape, their roles as dual eights have provided the side a degree of creativity not previously seen.
After what has been regarded as a career of ups and downs at United, we may finally be witnessing the best of Pogba in a United shirt before he leaves in the summer, and Fernandes is a big part of that. If this growing relationship continues, Bruno might play a crucial role in convincing Pogba to stay beyond this season.
The club must do everything possible to maintain Pogba and give United’s manager the opportunity to construct a team around him, Fernandes, and a new defensive midfielder. Then, perhaps, the anticipated redevelopment at Old Trafford that most supporters have been anticipating would not be as extensive as many had expected.