Bruno Fernandes said Manchester United and Milan have gone through a similar ‘phase of transition’ but stressed they are ‘returning to the top’.
Nine years after the influential midfielder arrived at Novara for €40,000 in July 2012, Fernandes has established himself as one of the biggest names in the Premier League with Manchester United.
He was picked up by Udinese for €2.5m a year later and spent three years with Udinese before moving to Sampdoria and then returning to Portugal with Sporting CP in July 2017.
Fernandes excelled in Lisbon and earned a move to Manchester United in January 2020, where he has continued to thrive, contributing 35 goals and 21 assists in 63 competitive games so far.
The 26-year-old spoke about his time in Serie A and how he ‘didn’t fully establish’ himself in Italy.
“I had to complete my physical growth,” Fernandes told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I was moving from one country to another.
“In Italy, I didn’t fully establish myself because the role of the attacking midfielder isn’t easy in your football.
“The story of [Paulo] Dybala seems enlightening to me. Everyone expects something special from him, but we are always strict towards him.
“Udine was, also for the years spent with the Friuli, the most important stage, but the change of coach didn’t help me.
“It was too bad, because I had found a real teacher in Francesco Guidolin. If I had spent more time with him, it might have been different.
“In any case, I can only thank Italy for what it has given me. I was happy, I lived an experience of growth, I measured myself with a country where the football is of the highest level.”
Fernandes said the biggest difference between Serie A and the Premier League would be the ‘intensity’ in England.
“There’s a lot of intensity in the Premier League,” he added. “The pace is high.
“The smaller sides have quality and they make you suffer. In Italy, the tactics are like a university of sport.”
The Portuguese star has compared Manchester United and Milan by pointing at the similar ‘prestigious pasts’.
“In some respects, we and Milan are the same,” Fernandes continued. “Two clubs with a prestigious past, with 10 Champions League trophies in the cabinet, both have gone through a phase of transition, but are returning to the top.
“At the beginning of the season, no one thought that Milan could fight for the Scudetto. We are in March and they are second. They play well, have interesting young players and the added value of [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic’s strength.”
The Portugal international said he wasn’t surprised that Juventus were eliminated from the Champions League by FC Porto this week.
“I’m not surprised. Porto have a winning mentality,” he said. “They play aggressive football and I expected them to create problems for Juventus.”
Fernandes then spoke about Juventus talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and the understandable expectations of winning the competition with him on the side.
“Cristiano is one of the greats in football history,” he added. “His mentality inspires those who practice this sport.
“He has won a lot, but no one can win alone. I understand that his presence at Juve had created enormous expectations for the Champions League, but when a team lose, the whole squad lose, not one single player.”