Solskjaer surprises Fernandes with Man Utd captaincy after hailing his 'spark'

By Sports Desk October 19, 2020

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprised Bruno Fernandes at a joint media conference by announcing he would captain Manchester United against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday after hailing the Portuguese's recent impact.

Fernandes has been a revelation since his arrival from Sporting CP in the January transfer window, scoring 12 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions during the second half of the 2020-21 season.

He also ended the campaign as the club's joint highest goal creator in the Premier League, sitting alongside Marcus Rashford with seven assists.

The 26-year-old has picked up where he left off this term, with his fine goal in United's 4-1 Premier League win over Newcastle United on Saturday taking his tally to three goals in five appearances. 

With Harry Maguire absent for United's Champions League clash in Paris, Solskjaer had no hesitation in giving the captain's armband to Fernandes after his impressive start to life as a United player.

"Bruno has come in and had great impact with all the stats showing that," he said.

"His performances have been receiving real great praise as well. He has not changed the team, but he has sparked the team."

A visibly surprised Fernandes admitted he had no prior knowledge of Solskjaer's decision, describing it is a major milestone in his career. 

"I was not expecting this, I have found out the same time as you," Fernandes said. "For me it's an honour. I will be captain for my team-mates and to be captain of Manchester United is an important achievement for me.

"But I think everyone is the captain. Everyone needs to help and be a leader in their own way; leadership is different in every player. Tomorrow will not be about me but the team.

"Leading is every day in the training ground, every game and everyone is doing their job to lead the team in the way they think is best."

Tuesday's game will be the first time the sides have met since United's stunning last-16 win over the French giants in March 2019, when Rashford's stoppage-time penalty sealed a 3-1 win in Paris after a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in the first leg.

Solskjaer remembers the game fondly but insists it will have no bearing on how the match pans out against Thomas Tuchel's men this time around. 

"Of course, that's history for us," Solskjaer said. "It's in the past. Great history, great game, but it has no impact whatsoever on this game.

"We're a different team, they're a different team. It's a different stage of the competition.

"Of course, also without fans it's going to be a different game. Because in the last game, when we got the first goal early on that impacted the ground, it's a completely new situation."

Related items

  • Martinez: Hazard's condition 'best he's had for a long time' Martinez: Hazard's condition 'best he's had for a long time'

    Roberto Martinez said Eden Hazard's condition is the best he's had for a long time after picking the Real Madrid forward in his 26-man squad for Euro 2020.

    Hazard features in the squad despite the former Chelsea star continuing to endure a difficult spell with Madrid.

    He has once again battled several injuries during the 2020-21 campaign, limiting him to just seven starts in 14 LaLiga appearances.

    Those appearances have resulted in three goals and a pair of assists, with Hazard creating six chances for his team-mates in the league.

    But Martinez is now satisfied with his fitness levels, with the focus for Hazard now on finishing the season strong for Madrid, who host Villarreal on Saturday knowing they must better Atletico Madrid's result at Real Valladolid to win LaLiga.

    Hazard played just 13 minutes in Sunday's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, touching the ball 18 times and without creating a single chance or having a shot at goal.

    But Martinez told a media conference: "The situation with him is we know exactly where he is, his condition is the best he's had for a long time.

    "The level of fitness is really satisfactory, we look also at how important he is for the national team. [It's] important he finishes the season strongly for Real Madrid." 

    There are few surprises in the Belgium squad, with Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens all selected.

    Divock Origi misses out after a season in which he has been involved in only nine Premier League games for Liverpool.

    De Bruyne's involvement in the Champions League final on May 29 will have no impact on their preparations for the rescheduled tournament, Martinez stressed.

    "The date we'll meet is the 31st May and we'll be preparing [for] two friendlies," he added. 

    "De Bruyne is [our] only player in the final and will be joining the squad on 7th June. Each player's individual needs are being catered for.

    "Each player will have the same break and perfect preparation for the tournament."

    Belgium begin their Euro 2020 campaign on June 12 against Russia in St Petersburg.
     

    Belgium squad in full:

    Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels.

    Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen.

    Wing-backs: Yannick Carrasco, Timothy Castagne, Nacer Chadli, Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier.

    Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker, Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel.

    Forwards: Jeremy Doku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard.

    Strikers: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku.

  • Vardy is Leicester's 'best ever' as Iheanacho goes from strength to strength Vardy is Leicester's 'best ever' as Iheanacho goes from strength to strength

    Jamie Vardy will be remembered as Leicester City's greatest ever player, according to his former team-mate Andy King.

    Vardy's goals fired Leicester to an unforgettable Premier League title triumph in 2015-16, when he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and went on to play and score for England at Euro 2016.

    While the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante went on to seek pastures new, Vardy remained as the Foxes' talisman and on Saturday added the club's first FA Cup to their maiden top-flight title when Youri Tielemans' thunderbolt sunk Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

    The 34-year-old's fairy tale ascent from non-league football has been well documented and, with 116 goals, he lies 19th on the Premier League's all-time goalscorers list.

    Vardy will have his eye on climbing a few more places yet, as he is under contract to Leicester until 2023. When the time comes for him to move on, Wales international King believes there will be a virtually impossible void to fill.

    "Everyone wants to know what the secret is or what he's like," King told Stats Perform.

    "But he has no secret over things which he does. You guys know that because he's been telling everyone he drinks his coffee, drinks his Red Bull, he eats what he wants and then he goes out and scores two goals and runs around like a madman.

    "What you see is what you get with him. Like with Wes [Morgan] and Kasper [Schmeichel], first and foremost he has great affection for the club, the people at the club and the owner.

    "He's such a good guy to have in the changing room and to have off the pitch as well.

    "The hole is going to be massive when he leaves Leicester. I think he's Leicester's best ever player. And that's before adding another trophy to the collection.

    "He'll be a hard one to try replace when Leicester have to do that at some point."

    On the other hand, Vardy's goalscoring mantle has arguably already passed, with the veteran playing a supporting role to the prolific Kelechi Iheanacho.

    Vardy's 13 goals in the Premier League this term represent a joint-lowest return since he hit the same number in 2016-17, comfortably below the 23 he netted to win the Golden Boot last term.

    But his nine assists represent a career best in the competition, matching his total from the past two years combined.

    This can, in part, be attributed to a slightly altered role supporting Iheanacho in a 3-5-2 system - their lethal striker partnership taking Leicester to the brink of Champions League qualification, which can be secured in Tuesday's rematch with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

    The former Manchester City striker scored 20 times in all competitions across his previous three seasons at the King Power Stadium but he has exploded into life this time around, with 18 to his name.

    Thirteen of those have come in his past 13 matches and King believes the 24-year-old's patience over the course of a lengthy acclimatisation process has been rewarded with more than just a new contract until 2024.

    "When he first came in, he was in and out of the team," he said. "It must be hard adapting from Man City to go into another team where you're not going to get the chances laid on a plate for you and you're not going to have the ball for 80 per cent of the game. You've got to learn to do the other stuff as well.

    "Kel was a really honest guy, he was trying really hard to learn the system. To start with, Leicester played a 4-3-3 with only one striker and Vards is always going to play.

    "They changed the system when Harvey Barnes got injured, which was a big loss because he was playing really well. I don't know if Brendan said to him, 'Look, I'm going to go to a 3-5-2 and you're going to be my second striker, you know you're going to play'.

    "If that was the case, he certainly rewarded the manager because for the second half of the season he has been absolutely outstanding. He's carrying Leicester at a moment to the top four, scoring goals when no one else was and his all-round play has always been good.

    "Like, anyone when they're playing with confidence and knowing they're going to play the next game, it all falls into place. Strikers go on a hot streak and he's certainly on one of those at the moment."

  • Durant leads tributes for 'phenomenal' Irving after joining elite list Durant leads tributes for 'phenomenal' Irving after joining elite list

    Kevin Durant led the tributes for Kyrie Irving after the Brooklyn Nets guard helped his side to victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers to join an elite list of shooters.

    Irving shot 8-of-10 from the field in Sunday's 123-109 win, was 1-of-2 from three-point range and a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line as the Nets secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

    In doing so, the 29-year-old finished the regular season with a 50.6 field-goal percentage, 40.2 three-point percentage and 92.2 free-throw percentage, making him the ninth member of the 50/40/90 club.

    He also joined Larry Bird, Stephen Curry and Durant as the only players to average at least 25 points per game during a 50/40/90 season.

    Durant put up 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds against the Cavaliers, but he was more impressed by the achievement of Irving - one that he can see his team-mate repeating in the future.

    "It's been a phenomenal season from Ky," Durant said in his post-game interview. "He's a guy who can get it from anywhere on the floor at any time at that size is remarkable. 

    "Point guards that get 50/40/90 is just so much more impressive to me. I'm very happy for Kyrie, and I'm sure this won't be his last time."

    Irving's coach Steven Nash, himself a four-time member of the 50-40-90 club, echoed the views of Durant.

    "Kyrie has been incredible this year," he said. "So efficient, such a talented player who just makes incredible shots every night. 

    "So, to be able to make those shots to create the space to take those shots, to convert at such an efficient rate, is incredible. He's a remarkable player and it's a remarkable accomplishment. I'm really proud that I can see it first hand."

    The Nets were again without James Harden due to injury management, while Joe Harris missed a third straight game with a left gluteal strain. 

    Nash is unsure if Harris will be available for his side's first-round playoff series against either the Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards, but Harden is expected to be available.

    "I think James will be fine, but Joe might need a few days - I'm not really sure," Nash said. "I think it's about monitoring the situation. But there's a case where he may not practice the whole week - that's OK.

    "He's played a lot of minutes this year and we want him to heal up as best he possibly can and kind of not have to chase this thing through the playoffs and have it linger. 

    "So, if we can resolve it I'd rather he resolves it than practice this week. He can follow along and rehab and that would make me happy. But if he's able to practice I'm sure he will."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.