MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United fans have been made to wait for Bruno Fernandes, and so they wasted little time in celebrating their new signing from Sporting Lisbon. Picked from the start against Wolves by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Saturday, Fernandes' first touch after 40 seconds -- a simple layoff to Juan Mata -- was greeted with a roar by the Old Trafford crowd.
During United's goalless draw, Fernandes' performance provided at least some promise, but there was little else to cheer on a day that represented another missed chance to close the gap on the top four.
"I think he did well," Solskjaer said afterwards. "It's his first game with new teammates. I think he played well."
The announcement from United on Thursday that Fernandes was finally their player brought to an end a scouting mission that lasted nearly five years and at least six months of claims and counter-claims about his future. The speculation became so intense in the summer that the club took the unusual step of insisting privately he would not be signed and citing their "irritation" at the volume of reports coming out of Portugal. Even this month there were fears that if negotiations with Sporting did not go well -- and at one point the deal came close to collapsing -- it would spark even more anger among a fan base already being vocal about their dislike for owners the Glazer family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Whether it was because of Fernandes' arrival or not, the mood around Old Trafford was more positive than it has been during a toxic couple of weeks. There were no songs in protest at the Glazers or Woodward, who was not at Old Trafford, and a planned walk-out in 68th minute, advertised on social media, never happened.
There is still a simmering tension among fans that is likely to remain until they can see tangible progress. Scrabbling around on deadline day to sign 30-year-old former Watford striker Odion Ighalo as a short-term stand-in raises legitimate questions about United's recruitment, although bringing in a player with Premier League experience for six months does seem like a low-risk deal.
Fernandes impressed in his first outing for his new club, but a home draw with Wolves is evidence of a team who are still stuttering in their pursuit of Champions League football. Chelsea dropped points again, and then so did United. Fernandes, though, did enough to to suggest he will make them better.
In the buildup, Solskjaer likened the Portugal international to another midfielder to wear the No.18 shirt, Paul Scholes, and in his first 45 minutes he gave glimpses of what the Norwegian is talking about. After five minutes, Fernandes threw himself in front of Raul Jimenez to stop the Wolves striker flicking on a corner. Three minutes later there was a pinpoint pass through midfield to Mata and, after continuing his run, a shove on Romain Saiss. Before 15 minutes were on the clock he had left compatriot Joao Moutinho in a heap on the floor with a biting challenge and gave Daniel James instructions on where to run.
One shot from distance fizzed past Rui Patricio's left-hand post. Another from Luke Shaw's cutback flew into the goalkeeper's gloves. It was enough to prompt a chorus of "Bruno, Bruno" from the Stretford End. He didn't have it all his own way, though, and when his free kick flew out of play without finding a red shirt, the travelling fans in the corner belted out, "What a waste of money."
Whether United have got value for the £46.5 million paid to Sporting will not be clear for a while. If he can recreate his form in Portugal -- 33 goals in 53 games last season alone -- it will be money well spent, and Solskjaer will hope it is not too long before he begins to find the net. United are now without a Premier League goal since Jan. 11, when Marcus Rashford was still fit, despite Wolves arriving having kept just one clean sheet in their past 16 league games. Fernandes at least tried, and of the home side's five shots on target, he was responsible for three.
"You want him to express himself and spur teammates on," said Solskjaer. "Be yourself, don't change your character, try to get on the ball and make things happen. I don't think any team deserved to win the game."
United have finally got their man, but Solskjaer will have to wait a little longer before he finds out exactly what impact Fernandes will have on his team. What was evident against Wolves is why he is needed at Old Trafford, and if Solskjaer has found the solution to a lack of creativity and goals from midfield, he will be worth every penny. Time, as always, will tell.