Thomas Tuchel has admitted that he wanted to sign Bruno Fernandes when he was Paris Saint-Germain manager.
Fernandes has been outstanding since joining Manchester United a year ago, quickly becoming the Red Devils’ focal point in attack. Ahead of Chelsea’s meeting with Manchester United on Sunday, Tuchel was full of praise for Fernandes, even revealing a former interest in the Portuguese midfielder.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Tuchel said, “My first sporting director at Paris was Antero Henrique, a Portuguese sporting director, and he knew Bruno very well. We fought hard to have a connection to him and bring him to our team, because he was a big personality for Sporting, an effective goalscorer and an effective guy to make the other players around him more dangerous.”
He went on to say, “I don’t remember [when] actually, it was during my first year in Paris. I’m not sure if it was the first transfer window, the second or the third. But I was aware of him more in detail because of my sporting director, who knew him very well.
“So we watched more and more games from him, followed him, tried to be in touch with him to make it happen. I was never personally in touch with him.”
Fernandes has 26 goal contributions in the Premier League this season – more than any other player – making up 47% of United’s goal tally alone. The Red Devils sit second in the league with a 13-point gap to the top, with Chelsea just six points behind and vying to cut the gap this weekend.
The 26-year-old will undoubtedly be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s key man at Stamford Bridge, as United look to extend their incredible unbeaten run away from home. With Chelsea looking to earn their first home win over Manchester United since November 2017, they will be extremely wary of Fernandes’ threat.
Tuchel said, “The impact he has had since he arrived at Man United is indescribable, unbelievable. Coming from Portugal, stepping up here into one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League and the strongest league in Europe, to have this kind of impact, I have nothing but the biggest respect for this guy.”
The German added, “He is outstanding, one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. He has a huge impact, and to have this as a single person in football, he must be absolutely at the top level, because this is almost impossible, but he has such a big influence on their attacking game. He’s a key player for Man United in a way that is outstanding.”
On the opposite spectrum, Chelsea will be looking to Timo Werner to make the difference on Sunday.
Although the 24-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists this campaign, he has struggled to gain real consistency throughout his debut season. Nonetheless, four goal contributions in his previous four league games may prove to be the start of Werner’s renaissance, as he will look to add to his goal tally against Solskjaer’s side.
Speaking about Werner, Tuchel explained, “What is left for him is to not lose faith and to work for the team, this is what he is doing. We are reflecting a lot and working with him. But it’s not easy for him, and I can totally see this, and that’s why I’m very patient, I’m very supportive. I believe in his potential, in his character and in his goalscoring skills.”
He added, “This is the biggest strength and biggest force of Timo, to attack the space behind the last line. It’s maybe also our fault in the dominant game that we play, at the moment it’s very natural that the spaces are closed by the opponents. He scores so many goals every year, so he has [a goalscoring instinct] and I’m sure he will not lose it.”
It has now been a month since Tuchel joined Chelsea in dramatic circumstances, announced the very day after Frank Lampard was sacked. The German remains unbeaten in his eight games in charge, but now faces his toughest run of fixtures yet.
The Blues have already prevailed over La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid, and after the United game, they travel to Anfield to face defending champions Liverpool. Everton, Leeds and Atlético follow in the subsequent weeks, as Tuchel prepares for what will be a season-defining few weeks in west London.
Tuchel said, “The point is to not get affected too much in moments where you get good results, and to keep your feet on the ground. This is the big challenge, because we know very well that we get judged on results. This is not always easy, this judgement is not always justified, but this is the way it is.”
He concluded, “I know that from the outside I will be judged for every substitution, every lineup before the match, after the match. This is how it is. To be part of this club and this structure is the goal, to do my best to keep a good atmosphere flowing and to keep a good energy, keep everybody pushing to the limits.”
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