Micah Richards believes there are three players in contention to be named Player of the Year – but claims Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes would be the most worthy winner of the accolade.
Fernandes has led from the front impeccably to put United firmly in the hunt for a top-four spot this season.
The Portuguese has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others, with the Red Devils second in the Premier League table.
However, the 26-year-old remains a vocal character on the field and off it; something Ian Wright has tried to find the positives in.
And Richards believes the good that Fernandes brings far outweighs the bad. Indeed, he claims Fernandes, along with Man City duo Ruben Dias and Ilkay Gundogan, are the three top candidates for the award.
Richards though, reckons the United man is the outstanding choice. That’s because he feels his impact at Old Trafford has mirrored that of previous winner Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.
He told the Daily Mail: “There are many fine candidates this year, not least Ruben Dias and Ilkay Gundogan, but the outstanding footballer of 2020-21 is Bruno Fernandes.
“His numbers at this stage of the campaign are frightening for a midfielder: 15 goals, 10 assists. Involved in a goal, either scoring or setting up, every 84 minutes. Fernandes has created 71 chances and I don’t believe United would be in the top four without him.
“The real mark of an outstanding player is what he does to others in the team and Fernandes has dragged improvement out of those around him. He also has a reputation now. If I hear United have scored, I have one thought: it’s Bruno!”
Richards claims Fernandes needs to win trophies
Richards, however, is adamant Fernandes will want to win more than a Player of the Year gong and will have loftier ambitions with United.
He added: “So far, Fernandes has won four trophies. He didn’t move to Old Trafford dreaming of being named Player of the Year. Bruno came to England to compete for the best prizes. He’s the one who will be the catalyst if United achieve something special.
“Apart from his numbers, there are other things that really stand out. He’s got an old-school mentality, he shouts at his team-mates if he doesn’t get the right pass or they don’t do what he wants them to do. The way he plays, you can see how much he wants to win. He’s not someone who is content when things have been going well, he’s looking for more.
“A couple of weeks ago, I asked why United had settled for second best in the Premier League title race but Fernandes was exempt from that criticism. That’s what sets him apart. I know Dias has made an incredible impact for City and he has exceeded my expectations.
“He has made a similar impact in Manchester as Virgil van Dijk did for Liverpool.
“Equally, if Fernandes does get the recognition he deserves but no silverware follows for United, how will he feel? Fernandes deserves to be winning trophies the way he is playing. Games against AC Milan in the Europa League and Leicester in the FA Cup provide a path to that target. Nobody will be trying harder than United’s No 18 to make it happen.”