Manchester United's pursuit of Bruno Fernandes finally came to fruition when a deal was agreed with Sporting CP on Wednesday, and Red Devils fans should have cause for optimism.

The creative central midfielder is Old Trafford-bound, providing the formalities of a medical and personal terms can be completed, meaning Fernandes will finally join up with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side having been linked with a move since the close season.

Midfield has been a problematic area for United this term and would likely have been so even if Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay had not missed time through injuries.

The arrival of Portugal international Fernandes offers hope of going some way to addressing the problem, and here Opta data shows how Fernandes has performed for Sporting this season, compared to United's midfielders.


CHIPPING IN WITH GOALS AND ASSISTS

Scoring goals has been an issue for United this season, with their return of 36 from 24 Premier League games the lowest among the top six in the top flight.

Fernandes should help in this regard having contributed eight in 17 Primeira Liga appearances. United's best Premier League goals return from midfield comes from McTominay (three in 17 appearances), while Andreas Pereira has just one in 21 and Fred (20), Jesse Lingard (19), Juan Mata (15), Nemanja Matic (8) and Pogba (7) are yet to score – albeit the latter has spent a lengthy period on the sidelines.

The 25-year-old has also been a reliable supplier for his team-mates, with seven assists. Pereira has three and Mata two, the same number as Pogba. Fred, Lingard and Matic have yet to set up a team-mate.

In total his combined 15 goal involvements is 11 better than United's best of four from Pereira and McTominay.

Fernandes also has a minutes per goals involvement of 102. Pogba is United's best in that regard, again with the caveat of having played far fewer games, at 261. Mata chips in with an involvement every 314, with Pereira at 343 and McTominay 363.


WILLING TO SHOOT AND CHANCES CREATED GALORE

Solskjaer will certainly hope Fernandes can be a much-needed driving force from midfield and the signs are positive.

Fernandes has taken on 60 shots in the league for Sporting in 2019-2020, some 25 more than Pereira's return, which represents the most for United.

The likes of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – when he returns from a back injury – will also hope to thrive on Fernandes' service.

He has created 63 chances this term, an impressive 24 minutes per chance created. Conversely, the most a United midfielder has managed is 31 – again from Pereira, whose minutes-per-chance ratio is 44:1.

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, it was announced on Wednesday.

Fernandes' move to Old Trafford is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms.

Sporting posted a video on Twitter to say farewell to the 25-year-old Portugal international, who has cost United an initial €55million (£46.5m) and a further €25m (£21.1m) in add-ons.

The bonuses will see the Red Devils will pay €5m after Fernandes makes number of appearances, €5m for Champions League qualification and €15m based on individual objectes. Sporting will also be owed 10 per cent of the profit on any future sale.

Sporting's farewell clip was accompanied with a post that said: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Thank you, captain. Forever a Lion."

Speculation linking Fernandes with a move to Old Trafford had intensified in recent months, but the prospective deal looked to have fallen through last week due to United reportedly refusing to meet Sporting's asking price.

However, a fee has duly been agreed between the two clubs following talk of late interest from Barcelona.

Fernandes is set to become United's first signing of the transfer window and provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a much-needed boost in midfield, an area where he has found himself short of options amid injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, it was announced on Wednesday.

Mino Raiola has furiously hit out at the attack on the home of Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Tuesday, saying it is inexcusable.

The agent of Paul Pogba and Erling Haaland has had multiple disagreements with Woodward over United's decisions in the transfer market but he is adamant the events have crossed the line of what is acceptable.

United vowed to ban for life any supporters who were involved in the attack on Woodward's property if they are found guilty of a criminal offence or of trespassing.

Widespread reports documented how a group of people threw flares at the house on the eve of United's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City and Cheshire Police are investigating.

Fortunately, Woodward and his family were not present at the time and Raiola has called for an immediate end to such protests, however frustrated fans may be.

"If anyone has used me as a reason to create any anger towards Ed, they are totally in the wrong because my relationship with Ed is good, it is professional, and we don't always need to agree but that's normal," Raiola said in an interview with The Athletic.

"What happened last night is not normal. It is violence and I condemn any type of violence. 

"These guys are morons and this is criminal behaviour. These people need to be locked up and re-educated. This cannot be part of sport. This is sport. This is not a question of life and death, it is entertainment.

"Do you think people attack the house of Brad Pitt if he makes a bad movie? Or does Quentin Tarantino get death threats because his film was not good? There is no reason or excuse, none whatsoever for this and Ed Woodward has my full support and solidarity."

Raiola recently branded United "out of touch with reality" and has previously been criticised for making public comments about Pogba's potential future away from Old Trafford.

And his demands were not met this month as United pursued Salzburg striker Haaland, who ended up moving to Borussia Dortmund.

But the Italian added: "I am with Ed Woodward – I'm on his side in this. I disapprove of violence against players, trainers, supporters, anyone and especially this kind of violence and harassment.

"This cannot be happening to a man – going to his private house and menacing him and his family. Are we totally crazy? Football is not that important in life.

"We have to condemn it. There is no place for violence inside or outside the stadium, and especially when it involves your house and your family. This is inadmissible."

Barcelona have seemingly given up on their pursuit of Rodrigo, while Manchester United are finally getting their man.

LaLiga giants Barca are eyeing a forward with Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

But while they reportedly targeted Rodrigo, their bid to land the Valencia forward appears over.

Meanwhile, a long-running saga is set to come to an end in Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE UP ON RODRIGO

'Rodrigo no' reads the cover of Sport, which reports Barcelona have stopped negotiations with Valencia for the forward.

The report says Barca cannot reach an economic agreement with Valencia, but are considering other options in their bid to sign a forward.

Rodrigo has scored just two goals in 18 LaLiga games for Valencia this season.

ROUND-UP

- It is finally set to be over. Bruno Fernandes' move from Sporting CP to Manchester United is practically done, according to Record. The Premier League club will pay £46.5million (€55m) for the midfielder, plus £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons with the potential for a further £12.7m (€15m).

- There could be some movement at Stamford Bridge in the coming days. AS reports Roma have made contact with Chelsea regarding Pedro, who has made just five Premier League appearances this season.

- Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are ready to launch bids for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Lemar, according to The Sun. The LaLiga club want £51m (€60.3m) for the Frenchman.

- Also at Spurs, the Mirror reports Tottenham are set to sign PSV attacker Steven Bergwijn for £25.4m (€30m).

- Pablo Mari's move to Arsenal appears set to become official. Globo Esporte reports the Flamengo defender will join the Premier League club on loan until June, with his club receiving £4.2m (€5m) and Arsenal holding an option to make the move permanent.

Bruno Fernandes said moving to the Premier League has "always" been his preference after Manchester United reportedly struck a deal to sign the Sporting CP captain.

One of football's most drawn-out transfer sagas is believed to be reaching its conclusion, with Fernandes poised to swap Sporting for United in a deal initially worth £47million (€55m) plus add-ons ahead of Friday's deadline.

Fernandes – heavily linked to struggling Premier League giants United this month and in the previous transfer window – is reportedly set to travel to Manchester on Wednesday.

Asked if the Premier League was his preference following reports of a possible move to either LaLiga champions Barcelona or Valencia, Fernandes told SIC: "It always was."

Pressed on whether United was his specific preference, the Portugal international midfielder replied: "Anything really."

Fernandes, linked to Tottenham and Real Madrid previously, has scored 15 goals in all competitions for Sporting this season.

The 25-year-old netted 31 goals last term, including 20 in Primeira Liga.

United, meanwhile, face Manchester City in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final – trailing 3-1.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils then play Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday before their mid-season break.

Manchester United will ban for life any supporters who were involved in an attack on the home of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Tuesday.

The Mirror reported between 20 and 30 fans threw flares at Woodward's house on the eve of United's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

In a statement provided to Omnisport, the Premier League club criticised the attack, saying there was "no excuse" for the "unwarranted" act.

"Manchester United Football Club have tonight been made aware of the incident outside the home of one of our employees," the statement read.

"We know that the football world will unite behind us as we work with Greater Manchester Police to identify the perpetrators of this unwarranted attack.

"Anybody found guilty of a criminal offence, or found to be trespassing on this property, will be banned for life by the club.

"Fans expressing opinion is one thing, criminal damage and intent to endanger life and property is another. There is simply no excuse for this."

United fans had chanted about Woodward - who was understood not to be at home at the time of the incident - and the club's owners, the Glazers, during a 6-0 FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday.

Sitting fifth in the Premier League, United have been increasingly criticised amid a difficult run of form that has seen them win only three of their previous eight games in all competitions.

It also comes as they reportedly continue to work on bringing in reinforcements in January, with Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes a target.

Pep Guardiola has accepted he made a "mistake" when questioning why Manchester City fans did not fill the Etihad Stadium for their last home game.

City's treble-winning boss faced a rare backlash from his own club's supporters following Sunday's FA Cup tie against Fulham, having spoken of his surprise at the 39,223 attendance.

The clash with Manchester United in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg is expected to be much closer to the 55,000 capacity.

Speaking about City fans after the 4-0 win over Fulham, Guardiola said that "hopefully they will support us more" in the United game.

However, some responded by quickly pointing to a recent heavy load of fixtures, and the cost of attending every game, and their stance has prompted Guardiola to reflect on his comments.

The former Barcelona head coach said he had not realised the match was televised live by the BBC, with the terrestrial coverage a likely factor in the below-average crowd figure.

"Never was it my intention to offend them, they are part of us," he told a news conference on Tuesday when discussing the fans' reaction.

"Since I arrived here from day one until the last day, what I want is to fight and play as well as possible to see the Etihad full every single day, every single day.

"So it belongs to us to play well, to seduce them to come. The only reason why we do our job is not for the titles, it's to go to the Etihad Stadium and see it absolutely full and the people together, enjoying the games together."

A number of City fans have stressed it is not the team's performance level, but instead the expense involved in buying tickets and getting to games, that means they may sometimes stay away.

Guardiola stressed he understood their situation, saying: "It's not necessary to tell me because I was part of that when I was a little boy with mum and dad. I know exactly what happens."

And he looked to explain his weekend remarks by pointing to how significant a game he considered the Fulham fixture - saying he felt the FA Cup held more appeal to City than European glory.

"Since I've arrived here, I learned from English football how important the Premier League and the FA Cup are - more important to this club than the Champions League... much, much more," Guardiola said.

"We knew it through the club and I experienced it.

"It was my mistake: I thought it's Sunday, one o'clock, today it will be full. I didn't know it was on BBC One, not Sky."

Guardiola still wants to see City's home full for every game.

He said: "We tried to do our best to let them be proud for our team, and I will try it again to push them to be with us as much as possible.

"If it's possible to be every game full, full, full, it would be better."

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to keep their cool in the heat of Wednesday's derby against Manchester United as they bid to seal a place in the EFL Cup final.

Armed with a 3-1 lead from the first leg at Old Trafford, City approach the return fixture in the semi-final as firm favourites to reach the March 1 showpiece at Wembley.

However, City know all too well how potent United can be on their day, having suffered a home league defeat to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in December.

Guardiola vowed he and his team have never been complacent, and he is optimistic that attitude will be enough to deliver an aggregate success.

"It's Man United. They can do it and have done it," Guardiola said. "In this kind of game, against this kind of team, with this incredible history, they have pride and I know, I know how difficult it would be to reach the final."

Speaking about the need to concentrate against neighbours who have endured a difficult Premier League campaign so far, Guardiola indicated he trusted his players to bring the right application.

"Never was my team complacent during four years - never," he said. "We have to be careful about their skills, we have to be careful about the counter-attack, we have to be careful about the set-pieces, we have to be careful about how good they can play if we let them play.

"We will have to defend. They don't have anything to lose so they are going to attack. We will have to control our emotions. We have to try to score goals."

Asked about possible squad rotation, a fired-up Guardiola stressed managers should be allowed to select their teams as they feel appropriate.

That issue has picked up traction in the wake of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp saying it would be the club's under-23 side that face Shrewsbury in their FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield, given the first team will be taking their mid-season break.

"Listen," Guardiola began. "We accept the schedules, the competitions, the games every two or three days, but don't tell the managers which selections you have to choose, please. It's our job."

City have a doubt over centre-back Aymeric Laporte but are expected to field a strong side, being eager to give United no hint of weakness.

They could have won by a greater margin at Old Trafford in the first leg, when Red Devils boss Solskjaer said City's strong line-up was a sign of their "respect" for United.

Guardiola said in Tuesday's news conference: "I show respect for my opponents from day one, from when I started with the second team at Barcelona to today, sat in front of you here.

"I took that selection (at Old Trafford) and tomorrow I will take another selection."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to use Manchester United's famous Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain as inspiration when his side take on Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

United go into Wednesday's semi-final, second leg at the Etihad Stadium trailing 3-1.

That is a similar predicament to the one they found themselves in against PSG in March, when they overturned a 2-0 first-leg loss at home to progress in the Champions League.

Solskjaer knows United need a flawless display if they are to repeat the feat, but draws hope from that PSG encounter as well as United's 2-1 Premier League derby win in December.

"It looked like it was over at half-time," Solskjaer said of the first leg. "I have to say the second part of that first half they outplayed us for a while and it's hard, but then we got the goal, back in it.

"We hoped for another one but we have got to go into the memory bank and think PSG. 

"We have done it against good teams before and that gives us hope and the game in December [against City] gives us hope.

"We can't just defend, we have to try to keep the ball and make them run after the ball. 

"It has to be a perfect performance but we've done amazing things before at this club and the PSG game is, for me, a very, very good example of how you can make a two-goal deficit work in your favour. We need the first goal."

Solskjaer did acknowledge United's Etihad win over City came under different circumstances.

He added: "They are getting players back as well, we hit them last time when they were struggling a bit and since then they have played really well.

"We have lost Scott [McTominay] and Marcus [Rashford] since that game, a little bit lighter in the playing department.

"It has to be a perfect performance to win with two goals against such a good team away from home. For us it's not about away goals, we just need to score two more than them.

"It would be good not to concede first, because that makes it less difficult."

Paul Pogba has had his ankle cast removed as he steps up his attempt to return from injury for Manchester United.

The France international has only started one Premier League match since August in a campaign heavily interrupted by his fitness woes.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to put a timescale on Pogba's return to action ahead of Wednesday's derby against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

But Solskjaer reported Pogba has made a key step in his recovery following surgery, as has fellow midfielder Scott McTominay, who is no longer wearing a knee brace.

"It's hard to put timescales on long-term injuries because they also need the training before [being] injury-free and need to be fitter," Solskjaer told reporters.

"Paul's had his cast off and Scott took his brace off so at least they can now start doing some work on the grass."

Reports have suggested Pogba and McTominay are both targeting injury returns after the mid-season break, with United to play Chelsea on February 17 after a 16-day stint without a game.

After suffering a small issue in United's 6-0 FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday, Nemanja Matic is in a race to be fit for the EFL clash with rivals City, who lead the tie 3-1 after a win at Old Trafford this month.

Solskjaer added: "Just Nemanja got a slight problem, so he had to come off at half-time. He has played loads of football so hopefully we can get him back on the pitch, but I haven't seen him. 

"Let's see how he is in training. To make sure we give him the best possible chance for Wednesday night we took him off. I think he should be all right but let's see."

Eric Bailly is pushing for a return to the line-up, while David de Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back after getting a rest against Tranmere.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed the much-maligned Alexis Sanchez to return to Manchester United at the end of the season after his loan at Inter and "prove us all wrong".

Sanchez was sent to Inter at the start of the season after a woeful first 18 months at Old Trafford, as he scored just three Premier League goals in 32 matches.

The Chile international had arrived to much fanfare from Arsenal in a swap deal involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January 2018, but he failed to meet expectations.

He is yet to make much of an impact at Inter either, making just five Serie A appearances – though injuries have played a part.

Reports had suggested Inter players were keen on Sanchez staying regardless, but Solskjaer is seemingly expecting the forward to return to Old Trafford at the end of the season, as he appeared resigned to not bringing in any reinforcements this month.

After being asked about United's hopes of signing reported target Bruno Fernandes, Solskjaer – who was speaking ahead of the EFL Cup semi-final second leg with Manchester City – said: "I haven't got any updates for you on transfers, I think it was a waste [of a question].

"I gave you the option. I haven't got anything to say now, my mind is on the game.

"We've got players here that we're working hard to get back as well, and if there is something out there, then the club is pursuing that and it's difficult.

"I can't remember how many good ones [signings] we've brought in with good deals in January.

"Henrik [Larsson] was good, Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra], I'm talking about it's hard, very hard, the clubs don't want to lose their best players.

"And then Alexis will come back in the summer and will prove us all wrong."

One player heavily linked with leaving the club is Marcos Rojo, who had emerged as a target for his former team Estudiantes in Argentina – their sporting director and one-time United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron previously confirming the interest.

But Solskjaer has no plans to part with the Argentina international.

"I wouldn't think so," was Solskjaer's response when asked if Rojo could leave this month. "Marcos has been injured and is working to get back and get fit again."

Sporting CP head coach Silas could not confirm if Manchester United target Bruno Fernandes played his last match for the Portuguese club on Monday.

Linked to United this month and during the previous transfer window, Fernandes remains in Lisbon despite the ongoing speculation and captained Sporting in their 1-0 win over Maritimo.

With United and Sporting still reportedly trying to negotiate a deal before the window shuts, Silas was once again asked about the future of star skipper Fernandes.

"I can't confirm it [if Fernandes made his last appearance against Maritimo], I would like him to stay," Silas told reporters post-match. "Right now I don't know if he will stay or not, but I would like to count on him at least until the end of the season.

"Bruno Fernandes is a different player, he sees things that no one sees. Being further back and seeing these movements, the defence begins to decline.

"Any team that had Bruno Fernandes in Portugal would suffer if they lost him. If so we will have to look for solutions."

Fernandes, linked to Tottenham and Real Madrid previously, has scored 15 goals in all competitions for Sporting this season.

The 25-year-old midfielder netted 31 goals last term, including 20 in Primeira Liga.

Liverpool will play Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup if they come through a replay with Shrewsbury Town.

Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders were stunningly held to a 2-2 draw by the third-tier club on Sunday.

The Reds will be expected to come through the replay at Anfield but face a tricky test in the last 16 should they do so in the form of a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Frank Lampard's Blues.

Holders Manchester City were handed an away tie at Championship promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday, while Manchester United could renew acquaintances with record goalscorer Wayne Rooney if his Derby County side defeat fourth-tier Northampton Town in a replay.

There will be an all-Premier League tie regardless of who comes through the replay between Tottenham and Southampton, the winner set to host relegation-threatened Norwich City.

Arsenal, who have won the competition a record 13 times, can secure their place in the fifth round on Monday with victory at Bournemouth, whose south-coast neighbours Portsmouth await the victor.

The fifth-round ties will be played from March 2-5 with no replays.

Draw in full:

Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester City
Reading/Cardiff City v Sheffield United
Chelsea v Shrewsbury Town/Liverpool
West Brom v Newcastle United/Oxford United
Leicester City v Coventry City/Birmingham City
Northampton Town/Derby County v Manchester United
Southampton/Tottenham v Norwich City
Portsmouth v Bournemouth/Arsenal

Diogo Dalot admits he has gone through a "tough journey" at Manchester United after scoring his first goal for the club against Tranmere Rovers.

Making his first start in all competitions since October, Dalot struck a fine second in United's 6-0 FA Cup fourth-round victory at Prenton Park, turning smartly after collecting Anthony Martial's pass and firing home.

It was a moment to savour for the 20-year-old, who has been restricted to six appearances in all competitions due to injury.

Indeed, physical problems have largely halted Dalot's progress at Old Trafford since an encouraging first season following his move from Porto in 2018.

Speaking of his strike against Tranmere, Dalot told United's in-house media: "Yeah, [the celebration] was more like a release of something I've been feeling inside me after these three months.

"It's been a tough journey, but like I said, these kinds of things, a win and a goal make us feel like I'm doing a good job in fighting, working every day and taking the opportunities."

United claimed their biggest away win since 1999 thanks to goals from Dalot, Harry Maguire, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Martial and Mason Greenwood.

It was a boost in confidence for the Red Devils, who had only won two of their previous seven games in all competitions and failed to score in back-to-back Premier League defeats to Liverpool and Burnley.

With the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester City to come on Wednesday, Dalot was proud of the way the players fought for a result.

"[It was] like a big fight," he said. "If we didn't come with the right desire and the right mentality, we could make it more difficult.

"Like I said, today we did a good job: right mentality, proper fight, respect the opponent and we get the win.

"It's what we work for every day for, these kinds of games, for this kind of fight and now we're focused on tomorrow and we go again on Wednesday."

United trail City 3-1 from the first leg.

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