"I can improve on my numbers," the UEFA Europa League's seven-goal top scorer tells UEFA.com.
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Signed from Sporting CP in the winter break, Bruno Fernandes has subtly altered Manchester United’s footballing DNA, injecting power and purpose into their midfield, and ending the Premier League season with eight goals and seven assists from just 14 games.
The 25-year-old’s UEFA Europa League stats are more impressive still; with seven goals for Sporting and United combined, he tops the scorers rankings for this season's competition. However, as he told UEFA.com in the run-up to Sunday's semi-final against Sevilla, he would take the trophy over individual honours every day of the week.
On meeting Sevilla in the semi-finals
The most important thing is having the right mindset and a strong mentality. We need to understand that every game is a knockout match – if we don't win, we're out. [In the quarter-final against Copenhagen] we started a bit nervously, because we knew that we had to start really strong, since this match was about winning or being knocked out.
[Sevilla] are a team that are used to this kind of European tournament and the latter stages. We know that the start of the match is going to be very important because the first minutes are crucial. We need to be stronger at the start than we were against Copenhagen.
On his swashbuckling style
It's instinct. Over the years, because of the position in which I was playing, I developed my ability to move around and look forward. When we lose the ball, I try to be the first one to react and to call on the other attacking players to help out in winning back possession. And obviously for me, to be able to build up the play, to have the ball and provide passes to my team-mates to enable them to score goals – it’s very important.
I think that's what I need to do a bit more because, yes, I've provided some assists but I could have provided more, given the quality we have up front. I believe I can improve on my numbers given the quality we have up front.
On finding his place at United
The manager was very clear [when I arrived at the club]. He told me to not be afraid, to just be myself, that he knew full well why he had sought me out, and what I was capable of doing; to continue to take risks in a match and to maintain the same mentality that I had at Sporting; to keep giving instructions on the pitch.
It helped a lot to have already played abroad, in Italy. I left Portugal at a young age [he joined Novara just before his 18th birthday]; I had to make my mark in football by myself – against everything and everyone, as we say. [Playing in Italy for Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria] helped in the fact that today I’m a more grown up, more mature person, which makes settling in easier.
Everybody at Manchester United has been amazing. I was lucky to play in [my first] league game, then we had the February [Premier League] break – [United had] a small break in Marbella where I got more sense of what the club’s ideas were, the coach’s ideas. I got to know my team-mates better. I had seen them playing, but I became better aware of their qualities and found out what I could do to improve the team.
On leading the charge to win the award for 2019/20 Europa League top scorer
If it came with the [Europa League] trophy, it would be just perfect.