Watford sporting director Cristiano Giaretta has been in full praise of Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes and stated he’s not surprised with the attacking midfielder’s impressive stats with the Red Devils.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took the 26-year-old from Sporting at the end of the winter 2020 market and the Portugal international has been vital in helping his side finish in the top three last season and getting to second in the table this term.

The Portugal international was once again decisive in United’s 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday as he assisted Marcus Rashford’s late winner.

Giaretta started his career in management at Novara and he was the sporting director who brought Fernandes to Italy in 2012. The current Hornets chief has explained what convinced then to sign the former Sporting captain from Portuguese side Boavista.

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“At the time he was still playing in the under 18 team, but his technical qualities were evident to everyone. In addition, he was different from the others because he already had the charisma of a leader, a decision maker,” Giaretta told Calciomercato.

“I had confirmation of this when I contacted him for the first time, through his agent. I was impressed by his mental strength and the intelligence with which he faced his days.

“He did not let himself be distracted by anything, he was not interested in extra sporting entertainment and leisure. I remember that after two months at Novara he already spoke Italian very well. I still use him as an example for many young people.

“Yes, I hear from him often, even a couple of times a week. I can say that he is the same guy I met at Boavista, with a great personality, with the same desire to work to become the best: he is one who is never satisfied, who aspires to a lot, even in his humility.

“He will never say it, but someone with his stats can only dream of important goals such as the Ballon d’Or. Since joining Manchester United, he has made 44 appearances and 26 goals, without mentioning the assists and plays for his teammates: he has always been decisive, also establishing himself as a leader.”

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Calciomercato suggested Fernandes has been able to do much better that Paul Pogba.

The Watford director agreed and further stated: “Sure, but beyond the comparisons it is undeniable that Bruno Fernandes is the real captain of the team. If others are important, he is essential. If I have to tell the truth it didn’t even surprise me too much from this point of view: at 18 he was already an adult in his head. The hard work did the rest.”

When quizzed where he feels Fernandes could end up in the future, Giaretta said: “Good question (laughs)… It almost goes without saying that he would be fine with Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus.

“The truth is he could go anywhere, but in my opinion he’s already at the top. Personally, I believe that Manchester United and the Premier League are the pinnacle of a career, a point of arrival, not of passage: I thought that as a player and I am still convinced of it, as a sporting director who aims to bring Watford back to the top as soon as possible. Then he will make his choices, he is an intelligent boy and will know what is best for him.”