Bruno Fernandes: Out of the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo

Bruno Fernandes scores brace against Uruguay, reminding Portugal fans he's the player who can deliver the ultimate glory for them

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal's Bruno Fernandes celebrate their win during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

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Bruno Fernandes had joined Manchester United in January 2020. By March, he already won his first Premier League Player of the month. By December that year, he’d become the first player to win four of those awards in a single calendar year. Needless to say, he was flying.

And just as he was about to make Manchester United his own, Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club in the summer. Once there is Ronaldo, everything becomes about him and Fernandes had to play second fiddle.

The same was happening with the Portugal National team. Ronaldo always took centre stage.

On Monday however, Fernandes seemed to step out of shadows of his superstar compatriot, scoring two goals as Portugal beat Uruguay to confirm their place in the knockouts of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

His career has been inextricably linked to Ronaldo, having played for Sporting, the club where his Portugal captain started his illustrious career before moving on to bigger things.

Bruno Fernandes Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes reacts after failing to score during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Their playing styles differ tremendously. Ronaldo has speed, power and a tremendous goal-scoring prowess. Fernandes is slithe, controls the midfield and can set up goals out of nothing by whipping in unbelievable crosses.

It was one of those whipped crosses that flew past Ronaldo’s head and into the back of the net and even though Ronaldo initially claimed the goal for himself, Fernandes was rightly credited with the goal later.

He then added another with a second half stoppage time penalty before rattling the post seconds later in his attempt for a hat-trick.

As is always the case, the biggest cheers throughout the game were reserved almost exclusively for Ronaldo. The fans in the 88,0000 capacity Lusail stadium were no different. Fernandes, however, left the pitch a happy man, knowing on the biggest of international stages there were now two big names in the Portuguese squad.

Whether at Sporting or at United, Fernandes was condemned to playing a supporting role to Ronaldo even though he is among the highest scoring midfielders in Europe.

With Manchester United abruptly ending Ronaldo’s second stint at Old Trafford following his scathing criticism of the club, Fernandes, though he refuses to take sides, knows that it’s time to be Numero Uno at the club again. And he’s showing just exactly what he’s capable of, on the biggest of stages.

His performance against Uruguay told the Portugal supporters that while they fuss over Ronaldo and his skills on the pitch, he’s the man who can actually deliver what they really want.

He may be playing in his second World Cup, compared to Ronaldo’s fifth, but Fernandes will hope it will also be Portugal’s most successful one.