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(SPORTS MAX) Bruno Fernandes says comparisons with Manchester United icon Eric Cantona motivate him to become even better.
The Portugal international has enjoyed a sensational season for the Red Devils, scoring 28 goals and making 18 assists across all competitions.
Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists came in 37 Premier League appearances as United secured second place and consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since 2013.
Fernandes’ form helped him win United’s Player of the Year award for a second straight season, the midfielder receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters.
Fernandes followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and David de Gea to become only the fifth player in United history to win the club’s annual award in consecutive campaigns.
It is another United great Fernandes has been compared to, though.
Cantona lit up the Premier League between 1992 and 1997 and former Sporting CP man Fernandes says he is “honoured” to be spoken about in the same breath as the Frenchman.
“It is an honour to be compared with him because the impact he had was really high and he won many major trophies with the club,” Fernandes told BBC Sport.
“But when you are compared with this kind of big player, it means you need to be better every day. It makes me work harder to keep in the mind of the people, being compared with him. That, for me, is a good pressure.”
Fernandes is out on his own as United’s top scorer this season, with Marcus Rashford seven goals adrift of the 26-year-old.
His most recent strike, a deflected effort in the 4-2 defeat to Liverpool on May 13, saw him overtake Frank Lampard as the highest scoring midfielder for a Premier League club across all competitions in a single campaign. Lampard scored 27 times for Chelsea in 2009-10.
Yet Fernandes rejects suggestions he has done much of the heavy lifting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season, insisting the club would not have enjoyed as successful a campaign without the support of his team-mates.
“It is such a big club. It would be heavy to lift it myself,” he added. “Of course, I did really well. I know that, from my numbers, my performance, everything.
“But this comes from the help and trust of my team-mates. They have helped me to be better every day. And if they help me, I know I can help them.”
United are aiming to claim their first piece of silverware since 2017 when they face Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
While a major trophy and a second-placed finish in the Premier League would be considered a success by many, Fernandes is targeting more next term.
“This team is improving,” he said. “Everyone can see it. We are growing up and understand together we can reach better things.
“The most important thing for me about next season is being all together; the club, players and fans pushing to the same side.
“If we all do that, we could do many good things next season, which, I am pretty sure, will be much better than this one.”