Would the real Manuel Fernandes please stand up?
TO borrow the title of a recent television programme: how do you solve a problem like Manuel?
For a brief moment against Derby County last weekend, we were given a glimpse of the player many believe Manuel Fernandes can really be, his wonderful pass and vision picking out the penetrating run of Leon Osman to settle a woeful contest.
Too often in that game, though, he was a passenger, looking short of fitness and seemingly unable to make a telling contribution, which is why it came as a surprise that he helped create the defining moment.
With injuries to key personnel, David Moyes is going to have rely on Fernandes even more in the final few weeks of the campaign and maybe the extra responsibility will trigger an improvement in his hitherto disappointing efforts.
Some have suggested that the Portuguese international has simply been going through the motions because he knows that his time on Merseyside is about to come to an end but it would be dangerous to jump to such a conclusion.
Valencia may want to recoup most of the ÃÂ£12m they paid for his services last summer but who is to say that they would not be receptive to another loan agreement? In football, you learn to never say never and Fernandes could easily stay at Goodison Park for another 12 months.
Should it really be a surprise that he has failed to set the world alight during his second spell on Merseyside? After all, he arrived with an injury, picked up another groin problem in the win at Manchester City and has played catch up with the rest of the squad.
But there is more to it than just fitness. He has been moved five times in the space of the past two years, from Benfica to Portsmouth, back to Benfica before joining Everton, off to Valencia before finally ending up at Goodison once more.
A nomadic lifestyle would stop even the most settled individual showing their true worth and maybe Fernandes just needs to find a club where he will feel loved to really flourish; if he wants to have that opportunity with Everton, though, now is the time for him to produce.
This column has been critical of Fernandes in the past, as there were doubts whether he had what it takes to fit into the dressing room or buy into the relentless work ethic that has made this squad such an impressive unit.
It is understood, however, that his training has improved in the past couple of weeks and if he can transfer what he has been showing in patches at Finch Farm onto the pitch, the player that dazzled against Arsenal and Manchester United 12 months ago may just return.
In fairness to Fernandes, he has acknowledged that he has not produced what was expected of him and has been as frustrated as those who wanted to make him one of Gwladys Street's darlings at the end of last season.
"It's been a little bit disappointing for me," said Fernandes. "Things are starting to get better but when you get injured it's always a blow. I'm just trying to get past that and help in the five games ahead.
"The injury has been related to both my groin and the previous surgery I've had for a hernia. Now things are settling down so I feel much better. I'm just going to play these five games and try to do my best, try to help the team and try to produce better performances as soon as possible."
Everyone knows that Fernandes is blessed with talent and you only have to think about the way he and Mikel Arteta passed the ball between each other when Everton confirmed their return to Europe last May in the 3-0 dismissal of Portsmouth.
If Fernandes is in the mood, he can make a contribution during the run-in; if he is not, the Blues are going to start these games a man down. Who, then, will emerge? The Dr Jekyll who can split defences open in the blink of an eye or the liability Mr Hyde? We will soon find out.