Man United need Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo to replicate Portugal form
Bruno Fernandes has never made such important contributions in a Portugal shirt.
That may come as a surprise given the enormous talent of the Manchester United star but it has just never really happened for him on the international stage.
For a long time when Fernandes played in Italian football, he was overlooked by coach Fernando Santos, unable to get himself opportunities in a national side hardly short on world-class ability.
It was only really after Portugal’s Nations League triumph in 2019 that Fernandes got much of a look-in and became a regular starter.
And despite entering the tournament off the back of an excellent season at Old Trafford, Fernandes failed to make much impact at Euro 2020. He began the competition as a starter and finished it a sub as they exited to Belgium in the last 16.
Before his double on Tuesday night, Fernandes only had six international goals to place alongside seven assists in 41 appearances for his country. Hardly eye-catching.
He and everyone else played in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow and that dynamic had become strained on the road to Qatar with the dominant narrative being the 37-year-old’s efforts to reach a fifth World Cup.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s dramatic last-minute winner for Serbia consigned Portugal to the play-offs and, having not been enormously convincing against Turkey, they were no doubt relieved to see minnows North Macedonia, rather than European champions Italy, blocking their path to the finals.