What do Fernando Santos and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have in common? A headache over who takes free-kicks and penalties.
With the grand return of Cristiano Ronaldo back at Manchester United, Bruno Fernandes will be equally thrilled and peeved.
Having his international teammate with him at Old Trafford is exactly the kind of move he wanted at the club.
Fernandes is desperate to win the biggest trophies and having Ronaldo on your side is one way of almost guaranteeing success.
However, the 27-year-old might just have lost his rights over taking free-kicks and penalties – one of the main sources of his goals for United.
Fernandes has scored 43 times for the Red Devils in 83 appearances – an astonishing 21 being from the penalty spot and two free-kicks.
But at national level, it is Ronaldo that assumes duties of all free-kicks and penalties and that policy could continue at United.
So how does Solskjaer decide upon who should step up on those dead-ball situations?
Fernandes has an astounding penalty conversion rate and has missed just once for United – against Newcastle last season.
Since 2017/18, the playmaker has a conversation rate of 96.2 per cent whereas his compatriot, Ronaldo, has just 83.9 per cent.
Last season in the Premier League, 81.6 per cent of penalties were scored – meaning the Portuguese icon is just a tad above average in terms of taking penalties – doesn’t seem right, does it?
Simlarly over the last campaign, the 36-year-old took 11 penalties – scoring nine and missing two – whereas the year before he had 16 – scoring 14 and missing two.
Fernandes might have shifted his eyes as recently as the international break, too, where Ronaldo had an effort from the spot spurned against Republic of Ireland, though he made up for his error by scoring a late brace to down the Irish 2-1.
Though with his more illustrious teammate leaving international duty after that match, it was the midfielder to take up penalty duties – and he delivered by scoring one against Qatar the next game.
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No doubt, there is a sense of romanticism over Ronaldo’s return to United and fans will be desperate to see that marvel of a figure approach a set-piece with the puffed out chest and the arms down by his side.
The images of those outrageous free-kicks against Arsenal, Portsmouth and Sunderland to name a few will be present in every United supporter’s mind as he steps up.
However, the five-time Ballon d’Or just is not that good at them anymore – during his entire Juventus career he took 69 free-kicks – scoring one – a measly 1.45 per cent conversion rate.
Fernandes, on the other hand, has scored some sensational goals from free-kicks – and that does not even mention the many times he has set up his teammates from similar situations.
Who should take penalties and free-kicks for United this season? Comment below
When Old Trafford reopened after a long, empty spell from Covid, fans were treated to a stunner from the United No. 18 in a friendly against Everton.
While at Sporting, a spectacular 35-yard drive against Benfica further while a clever routine against Liverpool bamboozled Alisson.
It gives the former Sampdoria star a respectable free-kick conversation rate of 8.6 per cent.
The stats do not lie and, unfortunately for Ronaldo, it appears to show that Fernandes is the superior set-piece taker and should resume his duties despite the arrival of his superstar buddy.
Time will tell what Solskjaer will decide ahead of this weekend where no doubt there will be a controversial call – so keep your eyes peeled.
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