January signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo have transformed Manchester United ahead of their Super Sunday derby with Manchester City, according to Jamie Redknapp.
United go into the Old Trafford clash on their best streak of the season, having won six and drawn three of their last nine across all competitions.
Recent results have taken United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, the last 16 of the Europa League and to within three points of the top four in the Premier League.
Fernandes has been instrumental in midfield since his £46.6m move from Sporting Lisbon, and Redknapp believes the Portugal international has immediately taken on a leadership role at United.
“The Bruno Fernandes signing has been huge for the club, sometimes it can just take one player to change the feeling, the way they train,” Redknapp said on a special Manchester derby preview podcast.
“I love his attitude. He dictates the pace of the game. And when you see him live you see a player who can pull the strings. He’s not gone in there and taken it easy, straight away he’s gone in and he’s organising.
“To a certain extent he’s like the manager on the pitch. And that’s what you want – somebody who can run a game for you. Ole must be so happy with that signing, considering they nearly didn’t sign him. They were umming and ahhing over the fee but he looks quite cheap now.”
Meanwhile, Ighalo – a shock Deadline Day loan signing from Shanghai Shenhua – has also made a fast start, scoring three goals from two starts, including a well-taken double in Thursday’s FA Cup win at Derby.
“Brilliant signing,” Redknapp added. “There was no doubting his ability. Even at Watford he showed glimpses and Ole obviously knew him, so they’re inspired signings and they’re the ones you want.
“If you’re building a team for the future, you’re not going to put Ighalo in it for the next five years but right now, as a stop gap with Marcus Rashford injured, Ole needed somebody to come in and make a difference and against Derby he was fantastic and took his second goal extremely well.
“And that will give him a lot of confidence. Even if he doesn’t start, to come off the bench and make a difference, that’s what you need as a manager.”
Redknapp believes Fernandes and Ighalo have helped to shift the mentality in the squad at Manchester United.
“There were a lot of games I saw earlier in the season and I thought ‘these players aren’t at it, they’re not pulling their weight, they’re not pushing themselves’,” Redknapp said.
“Now I’m watching them and they’re dictating the game, they’ve got a lot of possession, they look dangerous, and to a certain extent without Rashford, without Paul Pogba, people would have thought, well that’s their season over. But no.
“And do you know what else I really like? He’s not complained – we’ve not heard him moaning about not having Rashford, or Pogba. People don’t want to hear that. He’s got on with it. You have to get on with the squad you’ve got and it’s almost to a certain extent refreshing to hear a manager go that way because so often we hear, what can I do, I’ve got no players. He just got on with it.”