Paul Pogba looks destined to leave Manchester United at the end of the season but Bruno Fernandes suggests the future is bright.
As Manchester United got off the coach and made their way into Stamford Bridge for a huge Premier League clash with Chelsea on Monday, the Paul Pogba saga took its latest twist.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last week rose to the bait so frequently dangled out by Pogba's agent Mino Raiola, who once more told the media of the World Cup winner's interest in returning to Juventus.
The United boss' response that "Paul Pogba is our player, not Mino's" clearly did not sit well with Raiola. Prior to kick-off he fired back in scathing fashion on social media.
"Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer's property, Paul is Paul Pogba's. You cannot own a human being already for a long time in the UK or anywhere else. I HOPE Solskjaer DO NOT WANT TO SUGGEST THAT PAUL IS HIS PRISONER," Raiola wrote.
He went on to suggest that Solskjaer turn his attention to other things and, on the evidence of United's 2-0 victory over Chelsea, it is advice that may well be worth heeding.
Why get involved in an unbecoming game of tit for tat with Raiola over Pogba's future when United already have Bruno Fernandes excelling in the position the France international covets?
United received criticism for taking two transfer windows before finally prising Fernandes away from Sporting CP in a deal worth up to €80million – €30m less than the package they agreed to bring Pogba back from Juve in 2016.
After an encouraging debut against Wolves, Portugal international Fernandes appeared to have thoroughly benefitted from a training camp with his new team-mates in Marbella during the mid-season break.
Operating in the hole behind Anthony Martial – who headed in the opener on the stroke of half-time – and Daniel James, he displayed great energy, be that looking for a quick pass to knit the play together or running beyond the strikers.
Fernandes got involved all over the pitch and, after going close to opening his United account with a free-kick that struck the base of the post, delivered his first assist for the club with a corner that was headed home by Harry Maguire in the 66th minute.
Solskjaer has an exciting, creative talent that appears more than capable of providing with the sort of ingenuity it was hoped Pogba would bring. What's more, Fernandes is clearly happy to play for him and has had a positive impact on the atmosphere at the club.
"It's a difficult game against Chelsea, a great team and we needed a win to keep fighting. We need to keep working in this way," Fernandes told Sky Sports after the match.
"I think we can do much better on the ball, but it was a good game against a good team. We played our game. I feel good, obviously. I play for the biggest club in England, I'm really happy, it's a dream come true."
Maguire said of Fernandes: "You can see [the difference] he's made, the quality on the ball, his technical ability. He's a presence as well. He demands off players, he's a leader and he's nice to have around the dressing room. Long may it continue."
The victory over Chelsea lifted United into seventh and closed the gap to fourth-place Chelsea to just three points – a two-season European ban for Manchester City may open up fifth position as a route into the Champions League, of course – which could prove significant for Solskjaer.
Talk of a replacement being lined up will fade further into the background if the Red Devils can build on this result and put together a good run in the Premier League and Europa League, where Club Brugge await in the last 32.
The Pogba situation will linger for the rest of the season, but in signing Fernandes United have ensured they will be in a decent position should the France star finally get his wish for a new challenge.