We’re in the final stretch of this Premier League season. At the time I’m writing this, United are hosting their player of the year awards, where David De Gea is sure to win once more. So I thought, rather than wait until the end of the season, why don’t I do mine now? So, introducing part one of the inaugural Weekly Sermon End Of Season Awards! I’m literally making up the categories as I go along because this is my column damn it!
Best new signing
This is quite a strong category this year, as only one signing could legitimately be called a failure. Yes, I mean Zlatan.
Alexis Sanchez has struggled to fit in since arriving but has shown glimmers that he can be a successful Manchester United player. Victor Lindelof had a stuttering start, including that horror show of a performance at Huddersfield, but has improved in recent weeks.
It’s really down to one of Romelu Lukaku or Nemanja Matic. It is an incredibly difficult choice. Lukaku arrived with questions about whether he could manage it at a huge club and if he had the first touch and technique to assist in the build-up of attacks. The Belgian has 26 goals and 7 assists and has never looked daunted by the challenge of playing in Manchester. His play in deeper areas has vastly improved throughout the season as he inches ever closer to being a truly elite striker.
However, there have been question marks about his consistency, he endured a rather long goal drought during the autumn months. The same criticism cannot be made about Nemanja Matic. He has been Mr Consistent, playing nearly every league game and playing nearly 90 minutes in all of them. He wins the ball, keeps it under pressure then lays it off. The midfield looks in far better shape with him in it and he creates the platform for Pogba to thrive. With that, he takes this award home.
Winner: Nemanja Matic
Sadly, there’s only one candidate this season, although a lot of that is down to Louis Van Gaal giving so many debuts two seasons ago. There can be no other winner but Scott McTominay.
Don’t get me wrong, the Scot might have deserved it if there had been competition. Seemingly coming from absolutely nowhere and growing a foot in the process, McTominay has looked comfortable whenever he has featured this year.
I’m not entirely sure if he’s meant to be a defensive or attacking midfielder, but he has the time to grow into either. At the moment, he just seems to make the right decision when called upon. He knows when to attack, when to slow the game down and when to try something different. There are still areas of his game he can improve, but no one would have predicted he would be this good.
Winner: Scott McTominay
Best retiring player
I told you I was making these up as I went along! Like the previous award, there is only one winner here. Other than 24 minutes against Newcastle, he has only appeared in the cups this season. He has still looked like the best player on the field in those few appearances. Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Michael Carrick.
United have arguably needed to replace him since 2013, as he started to slow down then. But he is still the most intelligent United midfielder and the best passer of the ball in the squad. He’s also a serial winner, having won every trophy going in club football. There are very few players who are at his level that are playing today. We’re talking the level of Modric, Kroos, Busquets; truly elite midfielders.
He will be missed, but thankfully, he’s hanging around as a coach. Already, he seems to have made Pogba better in the few weeks he’s been part of the staff. Or maybe I’m being a bit silly?
Winner: Michael Carrick
The Adnan Januzaj Unlikely Hero Award
This, prestigious award, is for the player whose performances have exceeded their pre-season expectations. Scott McTominay is again in with a shout, considering that many fans were unlikely to have even heard of him in August.
Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia should also be considered. Who would have thought that two players whose United careers looked over a few seasons ago, would have become so key?
For me, the only winner can be Jesse Lingard. Last year was an underwhelming season for the academy graduate, especially following his breakthrough season under Louis Van Gaal. However, this season he has racked up 14 goals and 5 assists, making him nigh on undroppable for Mourinho. His performances throughout the autumn and winter were exceptional and he almost won games for United single-handedly. Who can forget his goals away at Watford and Arsenal and when he rescued a point in that horror show 2-2 draw with Burnley?
He also brings movement and drive to the central areas of the field, taking the ball from midfield and forward into the attacking areas. No other player in the squad plays in this way and no one can say they expected this from Jesse before the season started. Plus he does silly dances and boils the piss of rival fans. With that, he takes the award.
Winner: Jesse Lingard
Come back next week for Part Two. There will be more awards that I definitely won’t make up on the night!