Rodney McCain’s Manchester United End of Season Awards
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
The big Serbian lad has been a consistent ‘rock’ in the centre of the park for us this season, and his unbelievable fitness levels mean he has been virtually ever-present as well. An absolute bargain at £40 million from Chelsea.
Most Improved Player of the Season: Jesse Lingard
Our young Mancunian has silenced the critics and shown his worth with some fantastic displays, culminating in a season which yielded 13 goals from his attacking midfield position, despite the team struggling to create many clear-cut chances all season. It’s no surprise that Gareth Southgate is taking Jesse to Russia next month, and I’d expect him to do well for England.
Player Who Should Leave the Club: Matteo Darmian
The Italian lad has been virtually anonymous around Old Trafford for 18 months now, and on the few occasions he IS called upon, he demonstrates exactly why he can’t get a regular place on the team. The fact that he is unable to challenge a 32-year-old converted winger in Tony Valencia (who is only having an average season himself!) for the right-back shirt tells its own story. The news that Juventus may be prepared to give us £10 million for Darmian is quite a pleasant surprise to me – TAKE IT!
Goal of the Season: Antonio Valencia vs Everton
The Ecuadorian’s early volleyed “Exocet missile” from the edge of the Stretford End penalty area against Everton back in early September was as fine a strike as you’ll see; perfect technique, and not easy to keep your boot high enough to avoid simply blasting the ball high into the crowd. A peach!
Match of the Season: West Ham United home
I chose this game for two reasons: 1. It was the debut game for Romelu Lukaku, and the big man took only 33 minutes to register his first competitive goal for the Red Devils and gave a hint at the success he personally would become in the season ahead…. and 2. It was the opening game of a season which promised much, and this comprehensive demolition of an admittedly limited Hammers side seemed to reassure us that the team would be right in the ‘thick’ of it when trophies were being decided….how wrong that turned out to be.
Worst Match of the Season: Sevilla home
For me, the season pretty much ended with this shocking defeat – it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt so deflated by a United loss. In reality, it was the manner of the tame capitulation of this current United side over both legs which hurt the most. Sevilla are not better than us; they simply wanted the result more, and that should NEVER be able to be said of any Manchester United team in any game. Mourinho got his team selection and tactics horribly wrong for both games in the tie, and quite honestly any remaining faith I had in his ability to salvage something from the season died along with our chances of making the quarter-finals. Dreadful.
Rating for this Season: 6/10
It only gets this much because we did manage to finish runners-up in the Premier League, albeit so far behind our crosstown rivals as to make no difference. The entire domestic season was ‘coloured’ by how well City have performed, and though the football produced by United has been largely uninspiring (bordering on turgid at times), we did at least finish above the seemingly ‘free-scoring’ Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur teams which have been so lauded in the popular press. However, the Sevilla disaster hangs like a black cloud over everything, and the mood wasn’t helped by the toothless defeat to a fairly average Chelsea side at Wembley last Saturday. It’s fair to say that there is a lot of room for improvement.
Hopes for the Summer:
There are a number of problem positions within the side, and I’d hope the manager addresses these without delay.
If he doesn’t fancy Luke Shaw, then he needs to bring in a quality left-back who can defend, get forward and cross a football with pace and accuracy: Alex Sandro of Juventus would be ideal.
At centre-back, we have lacked a commanding leader for years, and if Toby Alderweireld is no longer wanted at Tottenham, I’d be more than happy to see him in a United shirt in August.
In midfield, we need a replacement for the retiring Michael Carrick, someone who can both tackle and pass a ball with vision and accuracy. I haven’t seen Fred or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in action, but if the manager feels either could fill that sizeable ‘hole’ for us, then he needs to have Ed Woodward act swiftly and decisively in the market. Nemanja Matic has done fantastically this year but the lad needs to be able to get rested for the occasional game without the team falling apart in his absence!
Up front, we have problems if Lukaku is unable to play; Marcus Rashford must be allowed to develop (ie. play more games, preferably alongside Lukaku) or his ability will be lost to us.
I’d like to see the manager try to mend his relationships with a number of influential players: Paul Pogba, Tony Martial and Eric Bailly, for starters.
Finally, we must do EVERYTHING possible to ensure that David de Gea feels like the King of Old Trafford! The boy is simply irreplaceable and must be retained at all costs.
Player of the Season: David de Gea
I didn’t really want to give it to our goalkeeper, but how can you overlook him? He has been instrumental (again) in our achieving such a high league position, and almost pulls off world-class saves on a weekly basis, so much so that we might now be taking him for granted!
Aside from David, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic have both been largely excellent in their debut seasons at Old Trafford, their differing talents shining through in an otherwise mediocre season. It almost sounds ludicrous to speak of the Premier League runners-up in such fashion, but many games have been “hard to watch” this season, and my abiding hope is that the season ahead sees a return of a United team that gets the fans back on the edge of their seats…it seems like it’s been a long time since that was the case.