There was a sense of inevitability that Manchester United's nightmare run would be brought to an end by Bruno Fernandes. Throughout the team's good times and bad -- and there have been plenty of the latter -- Fernandes has been the one player who could be relied upon to make a positive contribution, and he did it again by sealing victory at Burnley on Saturday.
A stunning first-half volley in the 45th minute was enough to earn a 1-0 win for Erik ten Hag's team and end a three-game losing streak that had seen United concede 10 goals in successive defeats against Arsenal, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bayern Munich.
The storm clouds haven't quite cleared for United and Ten Hag, with the team needing to build on this win to prove they have bounced back from the club's worst start to a league season since 1989-90, but this is a beginning and Fernandes made it happen by doing what he always does. He always shows up.
Since he arrived from Sporting CP in January 2020, Fernandes has missed just 10 games in all competitions for United, with the majority of those due to suspension. He appeared in 59 of United's 62 games last season, with two absences due to one-match bans.
And he has made it count when he has been on the pitch. His goal at Burnley was his 46th in 130 Premier League appearances -- an incredible ratio for a midfielder in a team that has struggled as much as it has thrived -- and there have also been 34 assists.
Marcus Rashford has scored more goals for United since Fernandes arrived, but the England forward's form has hits peaks and troughs. Fernandes, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency, and his reliability, both in terms of fitness and contribution, is one big reason Ten Hag appointed him as captain during the summer.
A club of United's stature demands big personalities and top performers, and Fernandes is the only one in Ten Hag's squad who ticks both those boxes. Some have personality, but none performs with the same week-to-week reliability of Fernandes.
Make no mistake, the Portugal international can be an infuriating player to watch. His emotions are never in doubt, as the 29-year-old is one of the most vocal personalities in the Premier League, with his seemingly constant scowl and habit of complaining about every stray pass or refereeing decision that goes against his team.
You can gauge United's performances and results by Fernandes's demeanour, but while some of his teammates have been accused of lacking passion and commitment, nobody could ever pin that label on Fernandes.
Had he benefited from playing in a stronger squad than he has during his time at United, Fernandes could have elevated himself alongside some the greatest players to have performed for the club in the Premier League era. The reality, though, is that he has had to carry the team at times and watch as rivals Manchester City and Liverpool dominated in the major competitions.
Had Fernandes not been around, the past three years at Old Trafford would have been even bleaker than they have been. He has been the team's shining light and his goal against Burnley, a perfectly executed volley from a narrow angle, summed up his quality.
"It was a great pass from Jonny [Evans]," Fernandes said. "I know he has great qualities playing the ball in behind with both feet. I was waiting for [the pass]. Burnley give space behind, but it was tough to get that at times, and we took the chance when it was there.
"We know that we have been in a tough bit of momentum, but we knew we could come back from it. Obviously, today the performance was not the best, but we got the three points, which is the most important thing."
Both Fernandes and Ten Hag will hope that this win is the start of a revival that results in a climb up the table.
United started this game without the injured Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Mason Mount. Jadon Sancho continues to train with the youngsters after his public spat with Ten Hag, while Antony is on a leave of absence after accusations of abuse made by three women. Raphaël Varane and deadline day loan signing Sofyan Amrabat were only able to start on the substitutes' bench before being thrust into the action late in the second half.
It is clear that United have injury and availability issues that have contributed to their problems. If Ten Hag could have more players as reliable as Fernandes, it would transform United's prospects.
As long as he stays fit and available, though, United will have hope of better days ahead.