Bruno Fernandes has shown shades of Eric Cantona during his first year at Manchester United, according to Steve Bruce, but the former Red Devils captain has warned off outright comparisons to the legendary Frenchman.
The Portugal international has proven to be a catalyst for change since his arrival last January, having helped transform the fortunes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Such an impact has seen Fernandes compared to former Red Devils star Cantona, whose imperious mid-1990s form helped guide the club to major success, but Bruce feels the former must first claim silverware to truly compare.
“What you have to judge people on over a period of time is what they’ve won,” said Cantona’s former team-mate, and Newcastle manager Bruce, ahead of the Magpies’ trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.
“Certainly, Eric for us, was the catalyst to go and win things. The way Fernandes has played in the last 12 months, it feels a bit like Eric because it’s his stage. Eric adored everything that went with playing for arguably the biggest and best club in the world.
“Fernandes has done fantastically well in doing that, it’s his stage. For it to be even suggested that he’s on the same hymn sheet as Eric is a wonderful compliment to him.
“Now they have to go and achieve and win things the way Eric did, and on big occasions win cup finals and semi-finals. If he does that then of course you can compare him to Eric.”
The playmaker was already one of United’s brightest lights after just half-a-season, and he has continued to light up the Old Trafford stage since, with 21 goals and 12 assists in all competitions this season.
In 2020, he set a new record when he was named the Premier League Player of the Month an unprecedented four times in a single calendar year, picking up the gong for February, June, November and December
He is yet to taste silverware, however, having missed out on potential finals in both campaigns, in 2019-20 with FA Cup and Europa League semi-final losses, and this year with a Carabao Cup exit in the last four against Manchester City.
Like Fernandes, the Frenchman transferred to United halfway through the season, making the short trip from rivals Leeds down the M62 to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in 1992.
Having helped the Whites to the last First Division title, his arrival helped spark an upturn in form for the Red Devils, guiding them from mid-table to the summit and helping them claim the maiden Premier League crown.
He went on to help establish Ferguson’s initial top-flight dynasty, with three more titles, along with two FA Cups and a trio of Charity Shields.
Solskjaer did take United top of the Premier League last month, but a recent stumble in form has seen them slip 10 points behind local rivals Manchester City.
However, United are still in the Europa League and beat Real Sociedad 4-0 in the first leg of their last-32 tie on Thursday.
United are also through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and will face Leicester next month, leaving Solskjaer’s side with two realistic avenues of a trophy this season.