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exclusive If I still had a vote, Bruno Fernandes would be my No1 choice for player of the year

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Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, right, celebrates with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, right, celebrates with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, right, celebrates with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes

IT’S that time of the year when the Player of the Year ballot form is sent out by the Professional Footballers’ Association in England and I’m going to shock you with my nomination for this season.

Wayne Rooney was the last Manchester United player to win the prestigious PFA prize back in 2010 and I believe that long run without a winner at Old Trafford could come to an end this year as, if I still had a vote, it would be going to Bruno Fernandes.

Okay, I know it’s not like me to pick a Manchester United player to win anything, but they don’t get many trophies at Old Trafford these days so I’d give this one to Fernandes!

Seriously, this has been a very strange season for so many reasons, with the absence of fans inside stadiums contributing to some bizarre results and a lack of consistency from almost every team.

Manchester City and their manager Pep Guardiola deserve all the credit for finding a way to put together a winning run amid the madness and they will finish this season as truly worthy Premier League champions.

Yet I don’t believe any player has stood out in what has been a magnificent team effort from City, as they capitalised on Liverpool’s collapse to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

Yes, Ruben Dias has been brilliant for them at the heart of their defence and has properly plugged the gap that was left when Vincent Kompany hung up his boots a couple of years ago.

Kevin De Bruyne (below) has been brilliant once more – but he did miss large parts of the season due to injury, while German international midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is another player who has been outstanding for City.

Among the other stand-out footballers this season, I’d give a mention to Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, even if he goes to ground far too easily for my liking.

Harry Kane has been brilliant for Tottenham and he has carried them for much of this season, but he has also been out for periods with injuries. And if I had to pick out a Liverpool player after a horrible season for Jurgen Klopp’s side, Fabinho has been the shining star both in defence and midfield.

Yet none of these players has had an impact this season to compare to Fernandes.

Since, without him, United would not be sitting in second place in the Premier League table, and I wonder whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would still be in a job.

Fernandes’ goal tally has been boosted by the ridiculous number of penalties United get.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks with his players

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks with his players

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks with his players

However, Solskjaer’s team lack a fear factor without their creator-in-chief and he has turned games for them on days when they have looked well off the pace.

I watched Fernandes play for Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season game against Liverpool a couple of summers back and I thought then that my old club just had to buy him.

He was outstanding in that game, bossing everything and showing real quality every time he got on the ball.

One reservation I had about him was his apparent eagerness to be involved in everything.

Bruno wanted to take every free-kick and hog the ball as much as he could, so maybe Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp felt he would not be a team player.

It might also have been the case that United could pay him more money and that’s why he ended up at Old Trafford.

Yet there’s no doubt that he has been one of the best signings any Premier League club has made over the last couple of seasons.

And serious proof of the fact that, contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe, you can get a top player in the January transfer window.

Fernandes has shone in a very strange team and they highlighted their flaws once more in their final two games before the international break.

First, United beat AC Milan at the San Siro and then produced a dreadful performance as they went out of the FA Cup at Leicester last Sunday.

Both contests summed up a United team that relies far too much on moments of brilliance from Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to get them through games, while so many of their ‘star names’ flatter to deceive.

Manchester United lack the qualities required to challenge for the title.

And while they might end up winning the Europa League as there is not a lot of quality left in that competition, I still don’t think they have a manager who will take them back to the top.

Solskjaer seems like a decent fella, but he doesn’t give me any confidence that he believes he will win trophies at United and that rubs off on the players.

So long as Solskjaer is manager, I don’t see United getting in the mix for the big prizes, although they do have the financial firepower to sign a player like Erling Haaland this summer and this young Norwegian striker would change their team in an instant.

Without a big signing of that magnitude, I wonder whether Fernandes might conclude at some point in the next couple of years that he can’t challenge for the Premier League or Champions League with his current employer.

Would his head then be turned if Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid were to come in for him?

That debate is for another day.

For now, Fernandes can feel content that, in my book anyway, he should be crowned the best player at the end of what has been a very strange Premier League season.

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