Bruno Fernandes is determined to end the season on a high by adding a Europa League winners’ medal to his second straight Manchester United Player of the Year award.
The Portugal playmaker’s name echoed around Old Trafford on Tuesday evening as 10,000 fans filed back into a ground that had been empty for more than 14 months.
Edinson Cavani welcomed supporters back in style when scoring an outrageous 35-yard effort, but United’s futility in front of goal was capitalised on by relegated Fulham in a 1-1 Premier League draw.
Chelsea’s win over Leicester later that night confirmed United as Premier League runners-up but helping the club to a first trophy in four years is the focus as the season comes to a close.
Fernandes will have a key role to play against Villarreal next Wednesday, with the 26-year-old desperate to add to the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award he collected on Tuesday.
‘It means a lot,’ he said after winning it for the second straight season. ‘I always said individual trophies are really good for players.
‘It lifts you up, of course. I would never say I don’t want individual trophies.
‘[But] it’s not more important than a group trophy, a team trophy, for me, but it is always important.
‘It is something you’re doing well, you’re doing your game really good, doing the right things, it means you can do a little bit more, means you can also improve a little bit more.
‘But at the same time it means people are liking you, the way you play, the way you’re trying to help the team, the way you do things – so that is more important for me.
‘But more important than that is winning a trophy at the end of the season and this is all about this because football is a team sport and for me it’s about winning trophies.’
United are favourites heading into the Poland showpiece despite the Old Trafford draw with relegated Fulham compounding back-to-back home losses against Leicester and Liverpool.
Sunday’s trip to Wolves offers the chance to end the Premier League season unbeaten on the road and provide a timely shot in the arm, but Fernandes does not believe their stuttering form will carry on to the final.
‘No, the final is a different game,’ he told MUTV. ‘But the most important [thing] now is that we focus on Wolves, a difficult game.
‘We know they defend well, we know they have quality in the team.
‘We just have to go there and win the game and after we have to think on the next one.’
While the Fulham draw will soon be forgotten, the return of supporters and Cavani’s stunning clipped effort from distance will live long in the memory.
‘Really good to have the fans back,’ he said. ‘We know how important they are for us. Honestly, everyone is disappointed not to give better a result to them.
‘I think the performance was there, was good but not enough.
‘Anyway, we tried to do our best to get a better result for them but today it was not possible.
‘I think they just saw a little bit of Cavani today. This is what he is capable of, this is what he can do and so I hope they can see it more and more this season.’
Fulham hope to build on Tuesday’s positive display when Newcastle visit Craven Cottage, where fans will be in the stands for the final match before Scott Parker’s side return to the Championship.
Defender Tim Ream said: ‘It was good. We came here wanting to work on a few things. We wanted to be brave, keep possession and work our way up the pitch and create some good chances for ourselves, as we always want to do.
‘To come here – especially with fans back in the stands – and get a point is pretty pleasing.
‘As much as it’s not nice playing away in front of a stadium full of United fans, it’s nice to hear the voices, the chanting and the boos. We were discussing it in the changing rooms – we can’t wait for Sunday.’
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