While Bruno Fernandes has been off the boil for Manchester United in recent weeks, there’s no denying he’s been a sensational asset at Old Trafford over the past two years.
Right now, the club remain locked in talks with the Portugal international over a new contract.
But, by continuing to struggle for consistency and falling further behind Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, they’re making things far tougher than they should be.
Manchester United initially wanted to sign Erling Haaland back in the January transfer window of 2020.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew his side needed more firepower and, after a trip to Austria with Ed Woodward, was convinced Haaland would sign on the dotted line.
In the end, however, that didn’t happen.
United missed out on Haaland due to the wage demands of Mino Raiola, with the Norway international then moving to Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund instead.
It was a hammer blow for the Red Devils who then, in the aftermath, decided to sign Fernandes instead.
Since that decision, the Portugal international has been sensational – arguably the best signing the club have made in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson walked away and retired.
He propelled the club to a third-placed finish in the 2019/2020 season, firing them into the Champions League in the process.
And, last season, Fernandes flourished as the Red Devils finished second under Solskjaer and reached the Europa League final.
Now, for some time, United have been trying to tie their prized asset down to a new contract.
It’s not a matter that is urgent, especially with the 27-year-old contracted to the club until 2025 – with an option of a further deal.
Yet, right now, United are failing to make themselves a place where an A-list player like Fernandes would want to stay.
There were hopes that both performances and results would improve when Ralf Rangnick took charge at the start of the month, replacing Solskjaer on an interim basis.
But while United have beaten Crystal Palace and Norwich, they’ve slipped to draws against Young Boys and Newcastle.
Fernandes very nearly quit the club back in the summer, such was his anger over the European Super League plot that rocked world football.
And with United falling further and further behind the Premier League elite, a long-term stay can’t be taken for granted.
In order to keep your best players, you need to win. Matches and trophies, not just one or the other.
Fernandes won’t be getting anywhere near the Premier League trophy this season, with United already 22 points behind Manchester City.
It will require a miracle to win the Champions League, especially with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid lying in wait for the knockout stages.
If United were winning, and Fernandes was operating at the peak of his powers, a new contract would be a formality.
Yet their struggles, and the player’s dip in form under Rangnick, suggests any new deal will be difficult to agree on.
Real Madrid and Barcelona will likely be watching the developments with great interest, having been linked with Fernandes in the past.
So United need to get their act together if they’re to keep their best players, such as the former Sporting Lisbon star, at the club for many years to come.
Meanwhile, talkSPORT pundit Simon Jordan has hit out at Fernandes for his poor form – insisting the playmaker is ‘believing his own hype’.
“I’ve well fallen out of love with Fernandes,” he said.
“I think he’s been reading his own press for some time.
“I think he’s probably the chairman of the Bruno Fernandes fan club.
“Because I think he’s got a view on how he will play and with ridiculous remonstrations with the Manchester United fans after the Watford game was just absurd.
“His performances have been not where they have started and maybe that’s because of a tortoises and hares mentality.”