Rafa Benitez praises Man Utd star Bruno Fernandes and reveals why his Newcastle transfer deal collapsed

Rafa Benitez revealed he tried to sign Bruno Fernandes while he was in charge of Newcastle (Picture: Getty)

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has lavished praise on Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes and revealed he attempted to sign the Portuguese playmaker during his tenure at Newcastle.

Fernandes joined United 12 months ago and has had a transformative impact on the fortunes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, who currently enjoy a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

United will be looking to underline their title credentials and widen the gap to champions Liverpool with a victory at Anfield tomorrow and Benitez believes the former Sporting Lisbon captain will be pivotal, although, if he’d had his way, he would have been lining up for Steve Bruce’s relegation strugglers this weekend.

He told The Times: ‘Bruno Fernandes was a player we were following at Newcastle United. He was at Sporting Lisbon and he had an issue with his club.

‘There was a chance he could leave on a free. We were progressing but the problem was that the matter would go to court and that would complicate it.

Bruno Fernandes has helped take Man Utd to the top of the Premier League (Picture: Getty)

‘The club didn’t want that. He has been crucial for United. He changed everything with the way he is playing — assists and goals.

‘He has ‘personality’. He tries to look for the right passes. In recent games, I saw him going to press with determination and intensity.’

On tomorrow’s heavyweight clash, Benitez added: ‘These games are very complicated. I have the feeling that Liverpool can do well, but I have to be honest, and Manchester United have been doing well in recent games.

‘It will be 50-50, or 60-40 with my heart. If you have problems in defence you have to try to protect that area by staying more compact but, at the same time, your style is to press and push the other team. You have to take risks.

‘The problem with Manchester United is they have some pace up front and you have to be sure not to let them run easily behind your defenders.’

MORE : Bruno Fernandes responds to Jurgen Klopp over Manchester United penalty jibe

MORE : Bruno Fernandes warns Manchester United teammates they can’t keep making ‘the same mistakes’ after Man City defeat

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