Bruno Fernandes believes the form of Newcastle United is “the biggest surprise of the season” and is expecting a “pretty difficult” EFL Cup final.
Manchester United face Newcastle at Wembley on Sunday, with both teams impressing this season after struggling in the 2021-22 campaign.
As well as reaching the final, United have worked their way into the Premier League title race, while Newcastle remain in the hunt for a top-four spot and Champions League qualification.
“I think everyone knows that Newcastle is being probably the biggest surprise of the season,” Fernandes told Sky Sports. “Not because of their qualities, because the quality has been always there, but because last season they struggle to stay in the Premier League and this season they’re doing really well.
“I think everyone knows [they are] a pretty strong and intense team. They haven’t conceded many goals this season. I think probably the best or the second best in Europe.
“But it’s more about us. It’s more about what we can do towards them, what we can do in our intensity levels, passion levels and quality-wise. Because we know that it will be a pretty difficult final whoever the opponent will be. It’s always difficult because it’s a final, the desire, the passion to win a trophy is always at the highest.”
United’s resurgence has been swift since Erik ten Hag came in as manager from Ajax, including Thursday’s victory against Barcelona in the Europa League playoff round.
“He brought his ideas, the discipline during the training sessions, during the week, during the games,” Fernandes said. “Obviously I think the most important change is the results and confidence is much higher now at this moment.
“We believe that the process that we are going through is the right one. I think everyone has the right belief. Everyone is following the ideas that the coach has brought to the club, to the team.”
The 28-year-old has seven goals and nine assists in 37 games for United this season, and understands that he and his team-mates must keep up the high standards implemented by Ten Hag if they are to have sustained success.
“The process is still on and we have to understand that it’s still a long way for us because we want to achieve much bigger things and obviously the manager demands that from us,” he said.
“I have been talking with him sometimes and he’s always saying that he has the same desire as me. He is not happy with being behind anyone. So that’s a good thing. He brought that culture that we can’t be happy to be behind anyone and whenever we are in front, we can’t be happy to be with a smaller gap.
“I think that’s a great thing to have because we can’t be satisfied playing for Man United and not winning trophies and not being in the position of winning trophies.
“But as I said, it is a process. It’s six or seven months now and things are going pretty quickly. I think from outside probably more because people never thought that United will be in this position at this time because all the changes, because the new manager, because the results in the beginning.
“But obviously it’s up to us, up to our qualities, up to what we have been doing really well… it’s [up to] us to carry on doing our best because we don’t want people to forget how good we are.”