The signing of Portuguese playmaker Bruno Fernandes last January proved a pivotal moment in the recent history of Manchester United and could determine the legacy of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The midfielder has now been directly involved in 33 goals in as many games since signing, notching 14 assists to add to his goal tally of 19.
Fernandes has lead by example during his 12 months in Manchester, and is regarded by many as a contender for the Player of the Year award.
With the future of Paul Pogba remaining uncertain, United recruited £35million Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek in the summer, to provide another option in midfield.
However, the former Ajax man has struggled to secure a place in Solskjaer’s starting eleven, and has featured primarily as a substitute, seemingly remaining behind both Fernandes and Pogba in the pecking order.
Solskjaer has defended his treatment of the Dutch international, and has highlighted teammate Fred and Swede Victor Lindelof as other examples of players who took time to adapt to the Premier League, but have ultimately impressed and secured regular starting places.
“It really feels like we have good strength in depth,” Solskjaer told reporters before United’s 2-1 victory over Fulham – a match in which Van de Beek remained an unused substitute once again.
“I have to leave some players even out of the squad when they deserve to be in the squad but it’s a good challenge and conundrum to have for the right reasons.”
With Pogba never straying far from the limelight, the future of the Frenchman, whose contract expires in the summer of 2022, will undoubtedly dominate speculation around Old Trafford in the coming months.
However, a potential exit for the World Cup winner could provide Van de Beek with the opportunity to establish himself as a first team regular, reports the Manchester Evening News.
The paper reports that Solskjaer is planning a clear out of some out of favour players at United, including Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira, who is currently on loan at Lazio.
With United still in the Europa League and FA Cup, the task of balancing a title challenge with two cup runs could force Solskjaer to rotate his squad and, ultimately, provide Van de Beek with the opportunity to impress in the first-team.