Juan Mata said that Bruno Fernandes was “very happy” when he left Manchester United this summer because he wanted to keep his shirt number.
Mata, along with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, and Edinson Cavani, left United at the conclusion of the month. The 34-year-old midfielder joined United in 2014 and helped the team win the FA Cup, Europa League, and EFL Cup.
The Spaniard had 51 goals and 47 assists in 285 games for United and was a popular player in the locker room. When he announced his resignation, he received a flood of well-wishes from teammates past and present, but his leaving had another unintended consequence.
Mata had worn the No. 8 shirt since joining United from Chelsea in 2014. He received it from Brazilian player Anderson, and other occupants include Wayne Rooney, Nick Butt, and Paul Ince.
Fernandes has had his eye on it since joining United from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020 and has now secured his preferred number.
The Portuguese midfielder had worn No. 18 for the last two seasons, but will begin wearing the number that corresponds to a tattoo on his right forearm in the 2022/23 season.
The jersey number switch sparked some friendly banter in the Manchester United dressing room, with David de Gea asking his colleague on Twitter if he had “anything to say” about Fernandes’ delight at receiving No. 8.
Mata responded with a quote-tweet: “He told me he was sad the day he knew we weren’t going to keep playing together… but I think he was quite happy @B_Fernandes8 #Number8” in addition to a crying and laughing face, a long nose emoji, and a shrug.
Fernandes was born on September 8, 1994, and has previously worn the No. 8 for Portugal as well as Udinese and Sporting Lisbon. He signed a lucrative four-year contract with United in April and is dedicated to the club for the foreseeable future.
Tyrell Malacia, United’s new acquisition, has been given the number 12 – a number originally worn by Chris Smalling. During United’s pre-season trip of Thailand and Singapore, Fernandes and Malacia will get to wear their new jerseys for the first time.
United have already gone to Bangkok for a high-profile friendly against Liverpool on Tuesday. The majority of Manchester United’s squad has travelled to the Far East, but Cristiano Ronaldo is conspicuously absent.
While his absence is reportedly due to “family issues,” Ronaldo has made it clear that he wants to leave United this summer due to a lack of Champions League play and what he perceives to be a lack of ambition in the transfer market.