Fernandes is currently wearing the armband for Erik ten Hag’s side – but only because Harry Maguire has been missing due to injury. Maguire, who is now back in training after shaking off a hamstring problem, remains the United club captain.
Ten Hag ended up sticking with Maguire as captain for the 2022/23 season. “He’s an established captain, he’s achieved a lot of success, so I don’t doubt this issue,” Ten Hag said in July during United’s pre-season tour.
Nevertheless, the issue has continued to rumble on in the background – and former United striker Dwight Yorke has speculated that Ten Hag might have already told Fernandes that the role will be his in the long-term.
“Before he was the stand-in captain, which wasn’t a problem. I think with the Maguire scenario, looking from the outside in at the club without knowing all the details, I think he’s been told he’s going to be the captain going forward,” he told Lord Ping.
“When a manager tells you something like that, then that weight comes off. So now he’s thinking, ‘Right, this is my new role.’ That clarity is good for the team and enables him to go out and do what he needs to do.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t expect this to be an official announcement this season with Maguire at the club, but perhaps the manager has had a word with him and that has given him the confidence he needed as a player.”
Fernandes is a natural captaincy candidate. The 28-year-old attacking midfielder is a hugely competitive presence on the pitch and is constantly seen communicating with his teammates on the pitch, demanding they remain concentrated.
He was captain at his former club Sporting Lisbon, who made him captain not long after he joined the club from Sampdoria in 2017. Fernandes also captained the Portugal under-21 side and is often one of the voices who speaks up in the media, or on social media, after disappointing results.
The Portugal international also has previous when it comes to demanding full commitment from his teammates. While at Sporting, a WhatsApp voice note was leaked in which Fernandes slammed his teammates for their poor attitudes.
According to Portuguese newspaper Record, Fernandes said: “Bro, I don’t say anything! I honestly, if you want me to tell you, I’d rather not comment on anything. I think very badly of some of the attitude of some players. Actually not a certain attitude, it’s an attitude that does not exist.
“There are players who have no attitude here, bro. They don’t want to be here, they don’t want to play. They don’t want to be here then f*** off, let them say they don’t want to play. They spend a year here getting money, and then they f*** off, bro. S*** attitude bro, for f**** sake.”
That intense and demanding personality may have seen him go too far on that occasion, but there are likely many in the United camp who would be happy to see Fernandes be given the armband on a permanent basis. United have gone five seasons without any silverware and the midfielder could be the man to help change that.