In what may soon become another annoying transfer saga, Manchester United have been heavily linked with two central midfielders, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Bruno Fernandes, who currently play for Lazio and Sporting CP respectively.
It was, on the whole, a disappointing season for Manchester United, they sacked José Mourinho halfway through the season with the club in sixth and replaced him with Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The Man Utd legend enjoyed a promising start to life back at Old Trafford, winning 10 of his 12 first games and looked like they may qualify for the Champions League.
The season ended poorly, however, and they had to settle for a Europa League spot. And now with Paul Pogba also trying to engineer a move away from the club, it looks like they are, once again, in crisis.
With Pogba’s departure looking increasingly likely, Manchester United need a big name to replace him in central midfield, with Fernandes and Milinković-Savić tending to dominate the gossip pages the most.
With this in mind, let’s compare the two to see who the Red Devils should sign.
Fernandes’ ability to pick out key passes has been cited as one of his strong points, with the Portuguese international averaging 3.2 key passes per game in the Primeira Liga for Sporting CP last season.
In comparison, Milinković-Savić could only manage 1.5 key passes per game over his 31 Serie A appearances. He averaged fewer passes but had a slightly higher pass success rate, averaging 79.6% compared to Fernandes’ 75.1%.
When it comes to assists, the two don’t compare, with Fernandes getting 13 over Milinković-Savić’s three, although Fernandes tended to play in an attacking midfield role more often than the Serbian.
It appears that, while it’s close, Fernandes is the slightly better passer of the ball.
Dribbling has been highlighted as strong points for both Milinković-Savić and Fernandes. The Lazio midfielder averaged around 1.1 successful dribbles per game, while Fernandes averaged 0.9 successful dribbles per game.
It’s worth noting, however, that Milinković-Savić attempted more dribbles than Fernandes and that out of the 64 total dribbles he made, 34 were successful, whereas Fernandes had 31 successful dribbles out of 49 total dribbles.
Once again, very close, but Milinković-Savić edges it.
Fernandes and Milinković-Savić have both gained a reputation over the last couple of seasons for being goalscoring midfielders. Fernandes scored an insane 31 goals in 49 appearances last season, including 20 in the Primeira Liga.
Most of these goals came from Fernandes’ right foot, although he has also scored a few with his weak foot, proving that he is perfectly capable with both of his feet.
Milinković-Savić wasn’t as prolific as he was in 2017/18, and could only manage seven last season compared to 14 the season before. At 6″3, however, you’re gonna want him in the box for corners and indeed, out of the five he scored in the league this season, two of them were headers.
In terms of goalscoring ability, it’s not really a contest, Fernandes wins out easily.
In terms of tackles, Fernandes attempted and averaged slightly more than Milinković-Savić last season, winning 1.7 tackles per game compared to the Lazio’s midfielder’s 1.4.
Milinković-Savić intercepted the ball 27 times last season, which contrasts heavily with Fernandes’ 14. The Serbian also trumps Fernandes in clearances, with Milinković-Savic clearing the ball 46 times compared to Fernandes’ 20.
However, Milinković-Savić tends to commit more fouls than Fernandes, which is seen as being a weakness of his game. Despite this, he clearly contributes more defensively than Fernandes, which is why Milinković-Savić wins this one.
It’s very close, and if Manchester United do sign one of these two during the summer, they will have signed a genuinely world class midfielder.
They’re similar players both in terms of attributes and abilities and both will likely command a similar transfer fee, even if Lazio’s chairman wants £100m (will absolutely never happen). However, if it’s more of a well-rounded player that United are looking for, then Milinković-Savić is the right choice.