Bruno Fernandes believes his Manchester United teammate Paul Pogba was unable to perform to the “superstar” standards set by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the club were struggling before an ankle injury ruled him out.

Before the season’s suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pogba had not featured since United’s Boxing Day win against Newcastle, the last of eight appearances in a campaign disrupted by previous ankle problems. The 27-year-old drew constant criticism for his displays yet his teammate Fernandes pointed to United’s form which had been patchy. The win against Newcastle followed a 2-0 defeat at Watford with United then in seventh place.

“We can say in football that people normally forget what you do good when you have [made] a mistake,” Fernandes told manutd.com. “You can do good for 34 games, and one game you do bad and everyone will remember that. Paul is coming from a bad moment, because of the situation. When he played also, the club and the team was not good [and] because the expectations are high for Paul, because Paul is a top player and Manchester United pay a lot for him, expectations are a lot for him.

“It’s normal when you are in that situation you don’t play like a superstar, because everyone expects from Paul like they expect from Ronaldo at Juventus or Messi at Barcelona. Everyone expects this from Paul at Manchester United, because they know he has the qualities for this. Also we have a lot of confidence in Paul. Obviously Paul is injured for a long time, and we know is he has a lot of qualities.”

Fernandes joined United in late January and featured in nine of United’s 11-game unbeaten run before football’s suspension, with Pogba nearing a return. Fernandes is excited to play with him for the first time.

“I know Paul from Juve, because I played against him in Italy [for Udinese]. And believe me, it’s really hard to play against Paul. Because I play in midfield, I mark him. We play in the same line [area], so it’s really difficult to play against Paul, because he has power, he has technique. It’s difficult to find a player like Paul: big, strong and technical. I hope he comes [back] soon. He started training with us in the week before we stopped, so I think when he comes back he will start to play, and be in the team.”

Fernandes made an immediate impact, impressing with three goals and five assists, and believes Pogba will further strengthen United. “I’m confident what Paul can give to us, to the team,” the 25-year-old Portuguese said.

“I think he has a lot to give and with the positive energy in the club – because we won a lot of games and we are in a good moment – everyone, the supporters and everything, will be more patient with Paul maybe. When the things go wrong, the patience is less, you know? It’s normal, because the fans want to win. Football is about winning; it’s not about playing. But the confidence now in the team is bigger.”

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