Since signing for Manchester United during last season's January transfer window, Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation.
His goals and assists have been a key difference-maker in turning Man United's fortunes under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who now find themselves right in the mix of the Premier League title race at the halfway stage. Fernandes' 19 goals in 34 Premier League appearances is a sensational return for a midfielder, particularly given that it is his first year playing in England.
One of the most prolific aspects of Fernandes' game has been his penalty-taking. Supporters of rival clubs have been quite vocal about the number of penalties Man United have been awarded recently - they topped the Premier League charts last season with 14 penalty awards, which was at least double the amount that 17 other clubs managed to receive in the same period. So far this season they have received the second most penalties in the division with six, and Fernandes has converted all but one of the ten penalties he has taken in the league since his arrival.
In an interview with The Athletic, Man United reserve goalkeeper Lee Grant described the very one-sided penalty rivalry he has with Fernandes in training.
Usually, I’m already forming an opinion about where the penalty-taker is going to put the ball after the first or second step of their run-up. I’m looking at their body shape, the angle they are coming in, and that’s when I make my decision. With Bruno, though, it’s almost impossible to read his body language. His penalty technique is really like no other. I’m never going to save a penalty if I stick to my usual routine.
I think I saved one penalty out of 25 from Bruno (that day). Juan (Mata) was dinking the ball down the middle, sticking it in the top corner. Bruno was rolling it in the corner with that smile on his face. I told him afterwards how difficult it was to read what he was going to do. It made him laugh.
Lee Grant is very much the forgotten man amongst United's goalkeeping options, with David De Gea and Dean Henderson competing for the number one spot with, amazingly, Sergio Romero still on the club's books also. Grant was Stoke City's player of the year in 2016-17 before signing for United a couple of years later, where he has assumed a back-up role ever since.
Fernandes' only penalty miss for United so far came against Newcastle in October. His stuttering run-up is one that looks slick when he can send the keeper the wrong way, but can look foolish if the keeper reads it. If Man United continue to win penalties at the rate they have been over the last 18 months, it will be interesting to see if opposition goalkeepers start to figure Fernandes out.
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