Having spent eight years at the club, the return to Shakhtar Donetsk was always going to be a big occasion for Fernandinho.
John Stones suffered a muscle injury that will keep him out for at least a month. Long before the news emerged, there had been speculations about the prospect of England’s international’s partnership with Nicolas Otamendi proving costly for City.
Fears increased when it became clear Guardiola is down to one fit center-back.
Fernandinho is not Aymeric Laporte. Neither is he Vincent Kompany. Nevertheless, he does have the leadership qualities of the latter.
His display in City’s routine 3-0 win over Shakhtar suggested he shares Kompany’s ability. Which is to step in after a while in the shadows and make it look easy.
This became his first start in five months but he looked comfortable throughout in Kharkiv.
Fernandinho this season
Fernandinho had come as a substitute this season. He came on for the injured Laporte with City already a goal ahead up at home to Brighton.
He was in the back four where he said, “different position, different role. But what the manager needs, I will be ready and try to do my best as always.”
Fernandinho’s distribution was impeccable. He misplaced one pass only throughout the first half which was an ambitious lofted ball over the top that almost succeeded in playing in Raheem Sterling.
His best pass of the match was an excellent raking ball to Riyad Mahrez. This showcased the distribution skills that he can bring to this team even from the back-line.
Defensively, his only concern was caused by his team-mates rather than anything that the opposition did.
When Moraes cut inside Kyle Walker, Fernandinho was able to do enough to put the striker off his shot.
When the same player darted in behind early in the second half, he had him covered until Ederson brought in confusion by rushing off his line.
Keeping that aside, Fernandinho had the demeanor of a man who could cope with this sort of test. The question that Guardiola and the Manchester City supporters will be asking is whether or not his presence in defense could be more problematic when the team faces bigger challenges than what has been posted in the Champions League opener.
It’s crystal clear that there will be no compromises when it comes to Manchester City’s high line. There was plenty of space in behind the veteran midfielder if their opponents had been able to find the time, space or quality to pick out the pass.
Now, could this be an area that could be exploited by better opposition in their forthcoming fixtures?