Harry Maguire has pinpointed Bruno Fernandes’ January arrival as a crucial turning point in Manchester United’s season.
The Red Devils secured Champions League football with a win over Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
It was Fernandes who opened the scoring from the spot to take his tally for the season to eight.
The Portuguese international has been equally as effective in creating goals for his team-mates and his signing coincided with United’s upturn in form.
Maguire said: “Bringing Bruno in in January made a big difference. We’ve worked tirelessly hard on the training ground but we dropped so many points where we shouldn’t have dropped points.”
United have had their defending criticised despite spending a record fee on a defender when they signed Maguire from Leicester.
A new centre-half is thought to be on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s shortlist as they head into a shortened summer.
But the Red Devils skipper feels they have made improvement in that area en route to achieving their goal for the season.
He added: “We’ve improved on set piece defending a lot, aside from the late goal at Southampton.
“We’ve achieved what we set out to at the start of the season, finish third in the Premier League, but that’s always the least this club should be aiming for.”
Solskjaer was also buoyed to have delivered Champions League football in his first full year as manager.
The Norwegian especially praised his team for how they have rallied in the season’s final stretch having had ground to make up on the top four.
“I’m delighted. We’ve achieved a Champions League spot, we’ve come from way, way behind teams and gone past them.
“We’ve shown that we’ve got the consistency, the right mentality. We’re building a group and a performance culture here that we can be proud of.”