WHERE would Manchester United be without Bruno Fernandes.
He was the goalscoring hero again with two in an impressive win over Real Sociedad.
He remains the talisman of this team, the reason there is still hope this season can end in glory.
There is no underestimating his effect on United since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon just over a year ago.
There are simply two parts to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign BF and AF – before Fernandes and after he arrived.
Before the club were listing dangerously in their own sea of mediocrity.
But Fernandes took control and steered them on a new course.
It still hasn’t been good enough for some and there has been a recent blip in the league, but the trajectory continues to be up since his arrival.
His brace in Turin means he has now been involved in 52 goals since joining the club just over, of those he has scored 33 and assisted 19.
Marcus Rashford scored the third and Daniel James a late fourth in a superb Europa League performance from United.
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Rashford had missed two golden chances in the first half but he did not allow his head to drop, he never does, he never stops charging at opponents and he can create too.
He provided the assist for the opener, helped to set up then second and then in the 65th minute, in another devastating United counter attack he ran onto a through ball from Fred to slot home the third.
That’s 17 for the season for him, seven of them coming in Europe.
In an open game, United thrive and this was very open with three scoring chances in less than the first three minutes.
Two went to La Real with Eric Bailly at fault for both as Adnan Januzaj fired over and Dean Henderson denied Alexander Isak at the near post.
At the other end Rashford was sent free by Fred one-on-one and goalkeeper Alex Remiro denied him with an outstretched leg.
Then in the 19th minute, on the break Fernandes teed him up unmarked with just the goalkeeper to beat but he could not finish again with the goalkeeper saving a shot that was too near Remiro.
He might not be an instinctive goalscorer but from that wide position he is a real threat to opponents and has an eye for a deadly pass.
It was the 27th minute when he clipped one through for Fernandes.
Brilliant Bruno left it for two La Real outfield players and their goalkeeper to end up in a heap as they all went for it and then put the loose ball home.
The celebrations for his second on 57 minutes were delayed due to the VAR but what a goal it was.
Rashford involved again with a ball from the left wing. Fernandes cleverly dummied, letting the ball roll through his run for Daniel James who nipped it back into the £55million man’s path.
The finish was priceless as the ball was just behind him but he managed to dig the shot out first time into the far bottom corner.
The linesman flagged, but Fernandes knew the timing of his run and James touch had been perfect and the VAR agreed.
Rashford got the goal his performance deserved and James having had one ruled out for offside stormed into the box and finish into the far corner a minute from time for number four.
When this draw was made La Real were top of La Liga, they are still in fifth. Solskjaer described it as the toughest draw they could have had.
The Spanish side form may have slipped, but this was still some win from a United team in need of a boost after dropping nine points in their last five league games.
That has allowed Manchester City to gallop ten points clear leaving the FA Cup and Europa League their only chances of silverware.
They are in the last eight in the former and now all but through to the last 16 in the latter.
United’s season is still very much alive.
When Fernandes is on the pitch anything is possible.
Having reached four semi-finals under Solskjaer only to lose them all this past year, they desperately need to make that next step.
On night’s like this you really believe they can.
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