By Robin Moorhead
As the clock approached midnight on 29 September, Manchester United had beaten Zorya Luhansk in the Ukraine and set out on their comeback year.
Two wins in 12 hours kept the Red Devils top of their group, even if there was a sense that the team had become a one-hit wonder in the style of Alex Ferguson’s 1999 treble-winning team.
Media playback is not supported on this device Ferguson talks Ferguson, the treble and Munich: ‘Every season is different’
Manager David Moyes faced criticism for his lack of signings and had the task of rebuilding the squad with three big names due to arrive the following week.
However, on the last day of the window, he brought in Portuguese winger Bruno Fernandes.
United fans were caught off guard when the 25-year-old caught their eye from a tricky position on the left wing. And by the autumn, the team was on a roll.
Fernandes, from Estoril in central Portugal, was dubbed “the Maradona of Portuguese football” – a comparison Ferguson also favoured.
The full-back played a key role in the winning of both the Premier League and Champions League trebles in 2008, starting with a superb performance in the last 16 tie with Barcelona.
He also played in the final, in 2007, when United lost 2-1 to Chelsea.
Peculiar to United, Fernandes’ appointment in 2008 was not expected to be given such a high profile. He had come through the Portuguese youth system but failed to make it into the first team at Sporting Lisbon, where he made just seven starts in two years.
He subsequently moved to Vitoria Setubal but was loaned back to Sporting, where he was earning a daily wage of 2,500 euros (£1,900) when he agreed to join United.
Fernandes’s inside-left position meant there was scope for manoeuvre, so he could make the most of any one-on-one situation
Fernandes scored eight goals in just 22 league appearances and 745 minutes of Champions League football during his first season at United.
He excelled in the Europa League, scoring four times in seven games, including a spectacular hat-trick against Besiktas in the last 16.
He also captained the side in his first full season, 2002-03, in Ferguson’s final campaign.
In order to help keep him happy, Ferguson had requested players to take care of Fernandes’s hair.
“To a man we were all asked to keep it in good shape, which is why the hair went for a very long time and it still hasn’t grown back,” he said.
Fernandes was United’s second signing in 2002, following the signing of Yakubu Aiyegbeni from Wigan.