Bruno Fernandes has been worth his weight in gold for Manchester United.
The Old Trafford faithful knew they were getting their hands on a top player in January, but nobody could have predicted that he would have transformed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side overnight.
Besides, I don't think we're alone in finding it hard to imagine this United squad without their Portuguese talisman and let's face it, Solskjaer would probably be unemployed if he never signed.
Fernandes' incredible impact
United didn't lose a single game in the Premier League last season once he arrived from Sporting Lisbon, securing their second-highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.
And although the club's form has taken a plunge during the 2020/21 campaign, that hasn't stopped Fernandes from strutting his stuff with 11 goals and four assists in all competitions.
But aside from all the statistics and inspiring performances, it's the attitude of Fernandes that is arguably most impressive and makes him such an invaluable addition to the dressing room.
A key leader for United
He is, by all accounts, one of the most 'Unitedy' players to have arrived at Old Trafford for quite some time and somebody you'd imagine Ferguson snapping up in a heartbeat.
As a result, there has been no shortage of calls for Fernandes to be appointed the club captain, which has always looked unlikely with world-record defender Harry Maguire owning the armband.
However, I don't think I'm being presumptuous to say that most United fans would want Fernandes to replace the Englishman in an ideal world - and the evidence in favour of him is bountiful.
In fact, with Fernandes having pushed his captaincy CV across the desk as recently as the weekend, so to speak, we couldn't help reflecting on the moments he's showed his leadership qualities.
Times Fernandes proved he's captain material
So, without further ado, here are nine moments where Fernandes has shown he should be United captain as he approaches one year at the 'Theatre of Dreams':
1. Insane work ethic vs Norwich
Leading by example is absolutely imperative if you're going to captain United and there have been too many instances to name where Fernandes has shown the worth ethic of a born winner.
You could bet your bottom dollar that if one player and one player only is jetting about the pitch like a Duracell Bunny even if United are 10-0 down then it's probably Fernandes.
But perhaps no example of Fernandes' indefatigable approach is better than his sprint from one end of the pitch to the other to win the ball back in the 24th minute of extra time against Norwich City:
2. Putting Guardiola in his place
Standing up to your rivals is crucial if you're leading United into battle, particularly in a Manchester Derby, so Fernandes showing who's boss to Pep Guardiola couldn't have been a better audition.
Per Goal, Fernandes explained to Sky Sports: "I talked about this with some friends and some people think: 'Pep won everything, who is Bruno to diss him?', but I think it is about respect.
"At that moment he didn't respect me and so he didn't deserve my respect at that moment on the pitch. But for me it doesn’t matter. What goes on in the pitch, out of it, for me, it's past."
3. Ice-cold interview after Leicester win
We could have listed 100 interviews that show off Fernandes' elite mentality, but none demonstrate his immunity to pressure quite like his reflection on the season-defining win at Leicester in 2019/20.
When asked about his match-winning penalty, Fernandes grinned: "I like the pressure you know? When the keeper leaves the ball close to him, I know he's afraid.
"He gave me that little bit more confidence I need. Of course they try to do these mind games, but it's better for me when they do it." If that's not captain-material confidence, then we don't know what is.
4. Calling out Lindelof vs Sevilla
Believe it or not, bickering between teammates, within reason, can be a brilliant way of bonding and if nothing else, a clear demonstration to the fans at home that players really care about the result.
Well, Fernandes showed he couldn't be faulted for caring when he gave Victor Lindelof a piece of his mind for failing to stop Luuk de Jong scoring in the Europa League semi-final defeat to Sevilla.
His post-match thoughts on it, too, spoke volumes: "What happened between me and Victor is normal. It will happen many more times in football. We need to see the mistakes everybody did and improve."
5. Fighting for the win vs Southampton
Drawing isn't enough if you're a United player, regardless of the context, so Fernandes had other things in mind than celebrating when Edinson Cavani made it 2-2 against Southampton last week.
While the likes of Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof ran to congratulate Cavani, Fernandes was shouting at his teammates and visibly rallying them back to the halfway line to push for a winner.
It's impossible to know quite how much of an impact Fernandes' elite mentality had on the team, but it says a lot that United did indeed bag themselves a third goal with Cavani scoring again.
6. Handing penalties to Rashford
We could talk about Fernandes' penalties in general because it's a brilliant example of him taking on the pressure, but an important part of leadership is also having the humility to be a team player.
And there could be no better demonstration of Fernandes' selflessness than his readiness to hand penalties to other players and Marcus Rashford, in particular, has already benefited from this twice.
Rashford was allowed to take a spot-kick against Bournemouth last season, before Fernandes proved he's a man of his word by handing him a penalty he'd promised against İstanbul Başakşehir despite being on a hat-trick.
7. Masterclass wearing the armband
While Fernandes might not officially be the skipper at United, that doesn't mean he hasn't worn the armband and the 26-year-old was given his first chance to lead out the Red Devils in October.
Fernandes captained the side for the trip to Paris Saint-Germain, leading by example with a glorious performance in midfield and scoring the opening goal from the spot in a famous 2-1 victory.
The Portugal international might have been surprised when Solskjaer revealed he'd be captaining the side before the game, but you wouldn't have known he was feeling any pressure during it.
8. Calling out Telles in training
And it was clear that Fernandes was taking his leadership responsibilities for the PSG game very seriously, so much so that he displayed a brilliant captaincy moment in training for the fixture.
The United squad were taking part in a rondo before the Champions League clash when new signing Alex Telles incurred the wrath of Fernandes for failing to move the ball on quick enough.
Credit to Telles for giving some back - it's always good to see some friendly competition - but it was all about Fernandes upholding the high standards that should be maintained every day at United.
9. Not shying away in Tottenham defeat
By far the most damning defeat of Fernandes' time at Old Trafford was the 6-1 humiliation against Tottenham, but his reaction to the result really showed his minerals as a key figure under Solskjaer.
Fernandes didn't shy away from the situation, positing an earnest apology to the fans on social media, while reports also claimed that he launched a half-time tirade against the players and manager.
The former Sporting man was reported to have had a 'face like thunder' and repeatedly shouted: 'We are supposed to be Manchester United. This shouldn’t be happening' in the dressing room.
GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says
Now, let me get one thing straight: I don't mean this as some indictment of Maguire nor am I opining that the former Leicester City man should be stripped of the armband.
Despite his early-season wobbles, Maguire is a world-class defender on his day and his own leadership skills have been vouched for by people far more qualified to judge than me.
Nevertheless, in a world where Solskjaer had a crystal ball in the New Year, you've got to imagine that he would have picked Fernandes as skipper.
Life doesn't work that way, though, nor would it have been a good look for United to instantly award a new signing this prestigious honour because, well, even Maguire got a few months of prep.
At the very least, we hope to see Fernandes wearing the armband more and more often when Maguire is absent and therefore, at the very least, United would have the best vice-captain in the world.News Now - Sport News