They say that January signings can be hit or miss, but one of the biggest hits in recent memory has been the impact Bruno Fernandes has had on Manchester United.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer United struggled to develop an identity, but since Fernandes arrived in January for an initial fee of €55 million, he has felt like he has always been there, such has been his rapid integration.
One of the problems that United had in the first half of the campaign was the lack of a No. 10, with various players such as Juan Mata, the contribution-shy Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira deployed as the link player.
But Fernandes has seamlessly slotted into the role behind the centre-forward, and the boost in performances isn’t simply conjecture, either.
Man Utd League Points
|Points Per Game
|*League minutes only
Before Fernandes had played his first match against Wolves on 1 February, United had picked up 34 points from their opening 24 matches, making that a PPG total of 1.41, while their nine matches won from 24 played generated a win rate of just 37.5%.
After he signed, they have boosted their PPG to 2.33, while their win ratio has nearly doubled to 66.6%. The sample size is small, it is also extended into other competitions, with United having not lost a game in any competition since Fernandes' arrival, a run stretching back 14 games.
Man Utd Goals For + Against
|Goals Per Game
|*League minutes only
The Portugal international has also had a profound impact on how effectively United operate going forward, but also in defence.
From pre-Fernandes to post-Fernandes, they have enjoyed a 67% increase in the amount of goals scored from 1.5 per game to 2.22. In total, they scored 36 goals in 24 matches before him, and 20 in nine matches since.
In those nine matches, Fernandes has individually contributed to 11 goals via six scored and a further five assists - two of which were recorded at the weekend for Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial as United demolished Bournemouth 5-2.
The Red Devils have also conceded 36% less goals per match than previously; before his debut against Wolves, they had conceded 24 in 29, and afterwards in the nine games in the league he has featured they have let in just four.
Another key factor in Fernandes improving United is that he has allowed the other forward players to enjoy more freedom. With the Portuguese pulling the strings, Martial can drift in from left to right or stay in the space between the posts, similar to Marcus Rashford, with the pair often swapping positions.
Paul Pogba, meanwhile, looks like a completely different player and shares the creative load in the middle, with any fears that that two could be incompatible so far unfounded.
Fans have waxed lyrical about the transformation that Liverpool made after the acquisition of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton; should Fernandes continue in this run of form into next season, people may be saying something similar about Manchester United’s changing fortunes.