Football

Bruno Fernandes having that Cantona effect: Martin Keown

Manager Ole said he was 'pretty confident' midfielder could score a free-kick

Ex-Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown believes Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes "is having that Cantona effect".

He came off the bench to score the winner in a 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round win over English Premier League champions Liverpool yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Club legend Eric Cantona is widely considered to be the catalyst for Sir Alex Ferguson's first EPL title win in 1993 and the Red Devils' famed Class of '92 have spoken about the impact the Frenchman had on them.

Since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon last January, Fernandes has scored 28 goals and registered 17 assists in 51 matches, transforming United's fortunes.

The 26-year-old was again decisive yesterday morning at Old Trafford, settling the game with a 78th-minute free-kick. Mohamed Salah bagged a brace for the Reds, with Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford scoring United's other goals.

Keown wrote in his Daily Mail column: "Cantona unlocked the door for Manchester United's success in his five seasons at the club. He and Bruno Fernandes are clearly different types of player, but Fernandes is having that Cantona effect.

"Teammates are following his lead. Every time Fernandes gets the ball, he tries to make something happen. That's his mentality.

"His winner on Sunday will give United great belief... United must now take that belief and use it in the Premier League title race."

The Red Devils sit top of the EPL table, two points clear of local rivals Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

Former Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas said on the BBC: "Bruno Fernandes has dragged Manchester United to the top of the league single-handedly."

According to ex-Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright, he did the same in the FA Cup, after coming on for Donny van de Beek in the 66th minute.

He said on the BBC: "United went to their bench and brought Fernandes on, you have heard that he only scores penalties or he doesn't do it in big games but he made the difference. He was the difference today, Liverpool's subs made no impact."

Having known he would start the match on the bench, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the Portuguese spent 45 minutes after their last training session practising set-pieces.

He said: "He's never happy with me when I tell him to go inside after training. But he knew he wasn't starting so he stayed out practising for 45 minutes yesterday and it worked. I was pretty confident he could score one if he got the chance."

The Red Devils will face West Ham United in the fifth round.

Football