Bruno Fernandes: I was told I would only be top player at centre half

Manchester United’s midfield maestro Bruno Fernandes reveals his childhood coach told him he would only be a ‘top player’ by starring at centre half… as he explains how he moved from defence to striker, then back to his favourite No 10 position as a kid

  • Bruno Fernandes divulged the different positions he played in as a youngster
  • Fernandes moved to striker after scoring twice in his first try-out session up front
  • But his coach insisted he would turn out a better player if he played at the back 
  • Fernandes is now starring in Manchester United and Portugal’s midfield 

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has revealed a former coach told him playing at centre half rather than in midfield would be best for his development.

Fernandes, 26, has been consistently excellent for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side since signing for the club from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.

The 23-cap Portuguese international, a slight 5’10’ attacking midfielder, has scored 18 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions for United, but was encouraged to play at the back when he was younger.

Bruno Fernandes (bottom row, middle) was told by a childhood coach he was better suited to defence than midfield

He told the UTD podcast: ‘I played central defender for the most part, when I started playing football, either central defence or right back. I was really good, I had a coach who said to me, “If you want to be a top player, you will need to play as a central defender. If you want to be a good player, you will be a midfielder.”

‘I think he was wrong but, maybe as a central defender, I could be much better, I don’t know! At the time I didn’t like to play there, but everyone was saying I was a good defender, they said I was smart, that I covered the sides.

The coach looked at the list of players, and because some were on vacation he said, “Oh we have no strikers” and I said “I’m a striker!” He said, “I thought you were a central defender” and I said, “No, I don’t play there any more, I’m a striker!”

‘So he gave me one try-out in training, I scored twice and he said “OK, you can play a striker!” He played me as striker in one game, then, in the second game, I was like a fake 9 with two strikers, and after that I moved back to No 10 and No 8.’

But Fernandes (left) has turned into one of the most exciting creative midfielders in the world

Fernandes also admitted his all-action and uncompromising style of play originated from playing against boys much older than him on the streets of Portugal.

He added: ‘I grew up with my brother who is five years older, and so I grew up playing with him and with his friends. Most of the time, I wouldn’t play because he didn’t want me to play with his friends – I don’t know if he was afraid that I was too good for them!

‘I was a difficult boy at the time because I always wanted to play with the older ones and the problem was I didn’t want to just play, I wanted to be the best out of all of them. And if I need to do a nutmeg on someone, I will do it – I don’t care.

‘And at that point, when you play with older guys, they are mad when they see a little boy do that, everyone starts shouting and laughing at them saying “Hey, you took a ‘meg from a little boy!”

The form of Fernandes at Man United has limited opportunities for team-mate Paul Pogba

‘And then someone can come for you and kick you… so I think sometimes my brother was afraid of this and other times he knew I was good enough to play against them, and so he just doesn’t want problems.’ 

Fernandes has since turned into one of the most exciting creative midfielders in world football, shining in the middle of the pitch for United.

Since joining from Sporting Lisbon at the beginning of the year, he has provided United with a real spark and leadership in midfield.

United’s start to the season has been very difficult but they will be hoping to kick on after beating Everton away 3-1 in the Premier League last time out.

Fernandes played a pivotal rule in ensuring United bounced back from an alarming run of results, scoring twice and laying it on a plate for Edinson Cavani to score his first goal for the club at Goodison Park. 

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