Bruno Fernandes: From the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo

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Bruno Fernandes came to Manchester United in January 2020. In March he already won his first Premier League player of the month. In December of that year, he became the first player to win four of those awards in a single calendar year. Needless to say he flew.

And just as he was about to make Manchester United his own, Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club in the summer. Once Ronaldo is there, everything revolves around him and Fernandes had to play second fiddle.

The same happened with the Portuguese national team. Ronaldo was always central.

On Monday, however, Fernandes looked set to step out of his superstar compatriot’s shadow, scoring two goals as Portugal beat Uruguay to confirm their place in the FIFA World Cup knockouts in Qatar.

His career is inseparable from Ronaldo, he played for Sporting, the club where his Portuguese captain started his illustrious career before moving on to bigger things.

Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes reacts after failing to score during the World Cup Group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Their playing styles differ greatly. Ronaldo has speed, power and tremendous scoring ability. Fernandes is slippery, commands the midfield and can score goals from scratch, whipping in incredible crosses.

It was one of those whiplashes that flew past Ronaldo’s head and into the back of the net and although Ronaldo initially claimed the goal for himself, Fernandes was later credited with the goal.

He then added another with a second-half stoppage time penalty, before rattling the post seconds later in his attempted hat-trick.

As always, the biggest cheers during the match were almost exclusively for Ronaldo. The fans at the 88,000 capacity Lusail Stadium were no different. However, Fernandes left the field a satisfied man, knowing that on the biggest international stages there were now two big names in the Portuguese squad.

Whether at Sporting or United, Fernandes was condemned to play a supporting role for Ronaldo, even though he is one of the top scoring midfielders in Europe.

With Manchester United abruptly ending Ronaldo’s second stint at Old Trafford following his scathing criticism of the club, Fernandes, though refusing to take sides, knows it’s time to be Numero Uno again at the club. And he shows exactly what he is capable of, on the biggest stages.

His performance against Uruguay told Portuguese supporters that while they care about Ronaldo and his skills on the pitch, he is the man who can actually deliver what they really want.

He may be playing in his second World Cup, compared to Ronaldo’s fifth, but Fernandes hopes it will also be Portugal’s most successful.

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