Sir Jim Ratcliffe verdict on Bruno Fernandes exit clear amid potential Saudi transfer talks

Bruno Fernandes has lifted two trophies in two years at Manchester United
-Credit: (Image: Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Bruno Fernandes ended last season as Manchester United’s top assist maker and all ten of his Premier League goals were decisive strikes in a game.

Four were match-winners and the other six were equalisers, and without them United would have finished even further down the table. Not all fans are content with his on-pitch demeanour but his influence on the team is undeniable and a summer exit would worry supporters.

Fernandes is not one of the quartet exempt from sales this summer, with only Andre Onana, Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo barred from leaving. As a result, speculation linking the 29-year-old with an exit has emerged, which has only inflated following his comments in May.

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Speaking in the Players’ Tribune, the Portugal playmaker hinted that an exit this summer was not an impossibility. “The club has to want me,” he underlined.

“The club wants me to be part of the future. But as I’ve always said, I don’t want to be a player the club doesn’t want. If United don’t want me for any reason, I’ll leave.”

Reports had initially connected Bayern Munich with interest but recent speculation this week claims that United will allow Fernandes to speak with clubs in Saudi. The case for allowing Fernandes to leave is rather small.

The midfielder turns 30 in September and missed his first United games through injury since arriving in January 2020 towards the end of last season. Some will also argue that his on-field gesticulations are not conducive for team cohesion.

But even his behavioural critics would agree that is a small price to pay compared to what the reality would be should he indeed leave. Finding a suitable replacement would be a thankless task for new sporting director Dan Ashworth given the current sporting and financial position of the club.

But Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a businessman and has shown his willingness to make unpopular decisions when he feels it is needed. And the truth is that Saudi clubs may offer a substantial amount of money that just isn’t offered for a player entering his 30s, cash that could change United’s summer.

Perhaps that is why Fernandes is not featured on the sale-exemption list. But it is clear Fernandes ideally does not want to leave and MEN Sport understands that Ratcliffe does not wish for him to exit either.

It thus seems evident that unless an irresistible offer arrives, Fernandes will remain at Old Trafford with two years, plus an optional extra, left on his deal. What the rumours should highlight, though, is United’s dependence on Fernandes.

United lost to Crystal Palace 4-0 and Arsenal 1-0 at home when he was sidelined with injury. While he might not leave this summer, Ashworth ought to already be making plans for when he does eventually leave.