Bruno Fernandes' perfect Man Utd moment was reminder of why we watch football

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Bruno Fernandes’ stunning assist at Wembley was a piece of artistry that should bring anyone watching it joy

There’s a scene in the movie ‘Looking For Eric’ where Eric Cantona is asked by his postman namesake what the sweetest moment of his career was. A particularly spectacular goal? The victorious moment in a key game? No, according to the philosophically-inclined Frenchman – it was a pass, to Denis Irwin, chipped delicately and precisely over the top of the Tottenham Hotspur defence and into the Irishman’s path to score.

“My heart soared,” Cantona said of his own moment of sublimity. You have to wonder whether Bruno Fernandes felt the same when he played Kobbie Mainoo in for the Manchester United’s second goal in Saturday's FA Cup final. With a simple flick of a right foot, Fernandes achieved a moment of true perfection, a feeling few of us will ever know. It must be transcendental.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It wasn’t really a ‘no-look pass’, of course, because there isn’t really such a thing. Fernandes look up and directly at Mainoo three times as he ran into the penalty area and knew precisely where the next man was going to be before playing it. He didn’t look as he passed it because there was no further need. That, or because it is traditional to avert one’s eyes from the face of god.

But why is the idea of the no-look pass so beguiling? Perhaps it’s because we’ve all seen so much football across the course of our lives that it’s incredibly rare for us to be truly surprised by something – we know, as soon as a player moves, what is about to happen with the ball because of their body shape and the angles. This is going to be a cross, this a sideways pass across the back line, this a shot on goal, and so on. So when all of that is thrown out of the window, as it is when the pass suddenly springs off a boot in a completely different direction, it’s exhilarating.

Ronaldinho made the no-look pass his calling card, of course, although as with Fernandes he always knew where the next player was before he actually passed it. He started doing it because he also knew that the opposition would instinctively respond to the feigned angle of the ball and be wrong-footed by the real one, and probably continued doing it because it was fun. It became a part of his brand, and considerably less exciting for it once it was inevitable rather than shocking, but there was still something truly thrilling about the first time you saw it.

Perhaps it’s just because it speaks to an uncanny awareness and level of appreciation for a player’s surroundings that regular people simply can’t hope to emulate or even empathise with. We’ve all had occasions on the five-a-side pitch when a shot or a pass or a touch comes off perfectly. None of us have ever been so aware of our team-mates that we could pull that off, and it’s made even more extraordinary because of how laughably easy it was made to look.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But much of the aesthetic perfection of Fernandes’ path doesn’t have anything to do with the direction his eyes happened to be pointing. There was the timing, too, of course, off his instep like a cricket ball of the middle of Ian Bell’s bat during a cover drive, and that was deeply satisfying as well, but there’s also just something oddly pleasing about a pass played across the body at that angle.

The corroborating evidence is known to any English football fan old enough to remember Euro ’96, in the form of Teddy Sheringham’s cute first-time pass across half of the Dutch defence and perfectly into the stride of Alan Shearer to put England 3-0 up against the Netherlands, which remains the high creative watermark for the entirety of English international football.

One hopes Fernandes has enjoyed some or all of those thoughts since he knocked the ball into Mainoo’s path. There were plenty of other talking points after the game - the tactics and whether Erik ten Hag finally got things right at the death, the blunders at both ends and Raphaël Varane marking Erling Haaland out of the game, even whether Stefan Ortega should have saved Mainoo’s shot.

None of it really matters, though, compared to Fernandes’ pass – because that was a moment of entirely pure, joyous excellence that provided a reminder that we don’t really follow football because of the winning or losing, or the transfers or the analytics, but because there is so much joy in watching a hugely talented human being do something extraordinary. Without that, few of us would find any pleasure in football at all.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.