Bruno Fernandes picks Man United up again to deny Jose Mourinho and Tottenham

It was like Bruno Fernandes had never been away. Among the on-pitch imponderables as Premier League football resumed was whether one of its most in-form players would be able to continue the level of performance that had revitalised Manchester United’s season after he joined the club in January.

Ninety minutes in north London provided a conclusive answer. It was apt that the 25-year-old converted the 81st-minute penalty that earned United a 1-1 draw at Tottenham because Fernandes had been at the heart of everything exciting about the visitors throughout the game.

Those around him endured an off night. Anthony Martial had one of those games where he almost evaporates into thin air, while Marcus Rashford made the right runs but end product eluded him, and Daniel James lasted 62 minutes and was lucky to stay on that long.

In fact, it was only when Paul Pogba was introduced as a substitute, just past the hour mark and with his side trailing, that Fernandes had someone operating on the same plane, raising the tantalising prospect of just how far the two of them in tandem could take United in the coming weeks.

Man United ratings: Pogba, Fernandes impress
Tottenham ratings: 8/10 Bergwijn enjoys fine outing
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This was Pogba’s first appearance since Boxing Day, and the interim period has been filled with speculation over his future amid persistent links to Juventus and Real Madrid. His attitude and commitment are repeatedly called into question, but having been left out of the starting lineup, he responded with a display mixing focus and guile to help Fernandes earn parity.

Pogba’s quick feet created the chance for United to cancel out Steven Bergwijn’s 27th-minute opener. The midfielder beat Eric Dier from a standing start on the right flank, shifting the ball past the Tottenham defender with ease before slowing a fraction to induce contact, a clumsy challenge that Dier instantly regretted as referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the spot.

Fernandes sent goalkeeper Hugo Lloris the wrong way to take his tally to six goal involvements — three goals and three assists — from as many league games since signing from Sporting Lisbon. The prospect of him maintaining this form will boost Ole Gunnar Solsjaer’s confidence that United can at least hang on to fifth place, which will be good enough to secure Champions League football if Manchester City’s UEFA ban is upheld.

Having a motivated and interested Pogba would be considered by many to be an unexpected bonus for Solskjaer, who commented after the game that the World Cup winner “always has a point to prove to himself and to us.”

“He did everything a midfielder should do; he tackled, got on the ball, played passed and showed some skill, so it is fantastic to have him back,” Solskjaer said. “He’s always wanted to play. He loves football. It’s been great having him back training with us. He is such an enthusiastic and passionate boy, and I think everyone can see the quality that…

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