Paul Ince insists the “jury is still out” on Bruno Fernandes despite an impressive 12 months at Manchester United.
The playmaker will celebrate his first anniversary at Old Trafford later this month but has already made a huge impact.
An inconsistent United were languishing in midtable last term before his arrival catapulted them up the table.
Ince though has highlighted the lack of expectation Fernandes is having to deal with in Manchester amid comparisons to Eric Cantona.
The Frenchman was signed in 1992 and tasked with delivering the title, a challenge he rose to.
Fernandes meanwhile is not playing with the same pressure, although that may be about to change.
An unfancied United side are level on points with leaders Liverpool and Ince believes now is the chance for the Portuguese star to prove his worth.
He said on Sky Sports: “The jury’s still out. Cantona came into a team who were under pressure to win the title. Manchester United, this year, are not under the pressure to win the title.
“We didn’t expect them to be up there challenging the likes of Liverpool and [Man] City.
“But now the pressure’s on because they feel they can win the title. That’s the mark of a top top player – what he does when it actually matters.
“Listen, I’m not saying that’s going to be the case, he’s certainly got the qualities to do it.”
Fernandes has scored 27 times for the Red Devils since his move from Sporting Lisbon.
The 26-year-old has helped inspire them to eight wins in their past 10 league games.
United haven’t ruled England since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last triumph in 2013, but Ince reckons they will be sensing a chance.
He said: “They’ll be smelling it. No one’s getting away from anyone at the moment. We’ve seen the table. They’ll feel they’ve got as good a chance as anybody to win this league.”