It is finally the end of yet another football season, and with club football now almost three months away from resuming, now is the perfect time to cast our minds back on the year gone by and select the best and worst of the 2017/18 Manchester United campaign. All of the United writers have provided their selections for the categories, and a simple majority will decide the winner of each individual award.
Signing of the Season: Nemanja Matic
This was always only a two-way fight between Matic and Romelu Lukaku, as Victor Lindelof, United’s other summer signing, has struggled to establish himself this season. While Lukaku’s goals were invaluable, and he showed genuine improvement as the season progressed, Matic solved a bit of a problem position for United, and did it without having a bad game all season. His defensive nous and calmness on the ball provided the base for all of United’s play this season, and it is a testament to his success that he is already near-indispensable in the side. The fact that we nicked him from Chelsea, who then replaced him with Bakayoko, is the cherry on the cake.
Most Improved Player of the Season – Jesse Lingard
Romelu Lukaku and Scott McTominay get honourable mentions here, for very different reasons: Lukaku has become visibly better at linking up and hold-up play, while McTominay has gone from virtual nobody to international recognition and a place in most United matchday squads in the space of six months. But this award has to go to Jesse Lingard, whose game is unrecognizable from last season. Lingard was always a willing worker off the ball, pressing and harrying opponents, but he has added intelligence and nous to his repertoire, often making intelligent runs into space or to drag markers away from more dangerous teammates. His finishing remains generally reliable, as does his knack for scoring important goals, and his rise this season could see him starting for England at the World Cup; that says everything about his progress over the last nine months.
Player Who Should Leave the Club – Marouane Fellaini
While the likes of Darmian, Blind and Shaw are all likely to leave United this summer, most fans wouldn’t mind if they stayed, for varying reasons. Marouane Fellaini, on the other hand, is one who almost everyone of a Red persuasion wants out of the club. The Belgian offers nothing on the ball, and his much-heralded heading prowess only gives Mourinho an excuse to turn to him whenever things are going wrong. Is a defensive liability as well, surprisingly poor in the air in defensive situations, and always prone to getting sent off or giving away silly fouls. His departure would also rob Mourinho of his security blanket, and hopefully force him to play more progressive football. Has to go.
Goal of the Season – Matic vs Crystal Palace
There have been quite a few contenders for this award; Lingard’s solo effort against Watford, Valencia’s hammer against Everton and both of Lingard’s goals against Arsenal were superb goals, but I’ve gone with Matic’s goal against Palace. It just had everything didn’t it: last-minute winner, Matic’s first goal for the club, long-range volley. What more could you possibly want from a goal of the season?
Match of the Season – City away
It just has to be the derby win at the Etihad. For all that City dominated the league, as well as the first half of that game, that win gave the United faithful some hope that we could compete with the blue juggernaut next season. City could have been five up at the break, with only woeful finishing sparing United a humiliation. As it was, a two-goal lead was blown away in the second half, as a completely different United side tore at City, with Paul Pogba epitomizing the turnaround as he scored the goals to get United level. Chris Smalling then volleyed in a very unlikely winner, and denying City the chance to win the title against United was a small silver lining from this season. Of course, we contrived to lose to West Brom in the next game to hand the title to City on a platter….
Worst Match of the Season – West Brom home
It is perhaps emblematic of the season that there are a number of contenders for this too – both games against Sevilla, the away defeats to Newcastle, Huddersfield and Brighton, the defeat to Spurs; any of these could have been our worst of the season. But, in keeping with continuity, it is the limp, insipid defeat to West Brom, at Old Trafford no less, that is my pick for our worst display of the season. This was such a contrast from the City game – United were toothless, lacking any semblance of urgency, and frankly, looked disinterested. An evening to forget at Old Trafford, leading to City confirming their title win.
Rating for this Season – 6/10
It’s been that sort of season for United – lukewarm. While there has been undeniable progress in moving from sixth place to second, beating all of our top-six rivals at least once and making it to a cup final as well, the negatives are numerous too. United were ponderous on the ball in many matches, failing to break down teams who sat behind the ball, while the defence was indebted to David de Gea on multiple occasions. The lack of fight shown in crashing out of the Champions League is a serious issue, and much needs to improve next season if the club are to properly challenge at the top.
Hopes for the Summer
Pogba to stay. Martial to stay. Fellaini to leave. A proper replacement for Carrick, ideally Jorginho but I would not mind Fred either. Getting proper fullbacks in. Carrick and the new assistant coach’s influence coming to bear on Mourinho, who unleashes United in a hipster 2-3-5 formation, cantering to a 10-point lead by October. Yes, they do get progressively outlandish, but a man can dream…
Player of the Season – David de Gea
It is sad, in a way, that he’s won it for the fourth time in five years. But it has been another outstanding season from our Spanish saviour, with some truly world-class saves – the double save against Arsenal, the reactions to save Muriel’s header in the Sevilla game, and his stop from Aguero to keep United’s lead intact in the derby spring to mind. He has kept improving his distribution as well, and with a new contract hopefully on its way, looks set to continue at United for the foreseeable future. #DaveSaves