The Spaniard has talked up the impact the Portugal international has had at Old Trafford since his arrival from Sporting CP in January
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata says it’s a “pleasure” to play alongside Bruno Fernandes, who he believes “immediately proved how great a player he is” after swapping the Primera Liga for the Premier League.
Fernandes is already being held up next to United legends of the past after an outstanding start to his Old Trafford career, having been snapped up by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from Sporting CP for €55 million (£49m/$66m) in the winter transfer window.
The Portuguese playmaker, who has contributed 22 goals and 13 assists in his first 36 appearances for the Red Devils across all competitions, has been compared with fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Eric Cantona because of the way he has taken it upon himself to drive the team forwards over the past 10 months.United have become reliant on Fernandes to create openings in the final third and organise the team when out of possession, with the 26-year-old seemingly thriving under the weight of responsibility.
Mata has thoroughly enjoyed working with the ex-Sporting star, and hopes he can continue to inspire Solskjaer’s side as they fight for silverware across multiple fronts.
Asked if he has been impressed with the way Fernandes has adapted to the demands of English football, the Spaniard told L’Equipe: “Yes, some players take a long time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League but that was not the case with Bruno, who immediately proved how great a player he is.
“He is hungry for victories and only thinks of improving. On the pitch, he and I get along very well, we have an instinctive mutual understanding of our passes, our movements… It is a pleasure to work alongside him.
“Truth be told, we are all very happy that Bruno is here, considering his impact on the team. Hopefully, he continues like this.”
Mata also reserved special praise for Marcus Rashford, but highlighted the influence he has had off the pitch rather than on it over the past year.
The England international’s charity drive to ensure that free school meals are available to all children from underprivileged backgrounds has been well documented, and he has also launched a book club to encourage reading among the next generation.
“I am so proud of Marcus, as a team-mate and friend, that he was able to help so many hungry English kids,” Mata said of his United team-mate. “This is a situation he experienced as a child, so he knows what he is talking about.
“He is so impressive… Let’s not forget that he is only 23 years old. From his first practice with the group, I felt he was a good guy, humble, with a great mindset and a lot of heart.
“It’s great to see Premier League players like him, Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) or Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) put their fame to good use to help others, and make sure that we live in a society a little more fair.”
Mata, Rashford and Fernandes will all be back in contention for a place in Solskjaer’s line-up when United take on Paris Saint-Germain in a crucial Champions League group-stage clash on Wednesday.