Written by Staff Writer
Bruno Fernandes was brought to Manchester United to overhaul the team in the 90s, but his efforts now are being heralded as some of the best ever.
Fernandes, who played in his final game in Man United’s clash with Manchester City on Sunday, was appointed manager in the summer of 1996, when he was promoted from the youth team.
The Brazilian left back was one of several players brought to the Premier League club by Sir Alex Ferguson, but his arrival signaled the beginning of a period of dominance by the Old Trafford club.
He quickly endeared himself to fans and the media alike with his charismatic style and memorable on-field antics.
“The way he plays? He’s like the guard dog at a gate,” Alan Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live of Fernandes. “He always stays at his gate until he’s allowed in.”
Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Kaka agrees.
“There’s no place for him to go until the door is opened,” he told a Barcelona TV station.
“That’s how you need a leader like Fernandes to be because a leader can make someone really want to do what they need to do and I learned a lot from him.
“He was always a fun-loving person. I watched him every weekend and he was always with the fans.”
Having previously played for Flamengo, Kazan and Gremio, Fernandes arrived at Old Trafford with only seven senior games under his belt, but his start was immediate.
The experienced Portuguese international helped the team to the FA Cup final — which they lost to Arsenal — where United clinched their first of six league titles under Ferguson.
The appearance made Fernandes, then just 25, the most-capped player at the club after goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.
He went on to become Ferguson’s first-choice left back during his stint at United, before moving to Porto and then Queens Park Rangers as a player-coach.
“I think he was very disappointed because I was already a very experienced player,” Fernandes told BBC Radio Five Live in January.
“It was a disappointment for me as well because I wanted to be there when I was younger.”
He also spoke of his ties to Manchester.
“As a kid, when I come here, it was like my country or family for me and the people here are very nice,” he said.
Fernandes followed in Ferguson’s footsteps, taking over from the “Touchline Bomber” when he left to take over his former club Aberdeen in 2000.
Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, together with the departure of former director and former manager David Moyes, led to Fernandes stepping in at Old Trafford.
Fernandes — now 59 — remained at the club until 2014.
The native of Sao Paulo was often referred to as a “football man” at Old Trafford and has been credited with bringing the club to the top of the English game.
Fernandes was succeeded by Louis van Gaal in 2015, before Carlos Carvalhal was appointed in November 2017, but he was unable to save United from a disastrous first half of the season and was sacked.
Since then, United have won the FA Cup, secured a Champions League spot and made an excellent start to the current campaign, finishing second in the Premier League and qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Under the Colombian, Manchester United have slipped to sixth in the table, just two points outside the Champions League spots.
“The first thing that I did was to try to hold on to the players who had been at United for long time,” Fernandes told the BBC in December 2016.
“The fans love them, the players feel like part of their family and I told them I didn’t want to replace them because they were the ones that made them. I wanted to keep what they have in their heart.”
So are we better off for having him at the helm of the club?
Fernandes said: “The feedback from the fans, the news from the players — they say the Manchester United I love is back again.”