In this moment of “closing the circle” Who is Your Man Utd’s Player of the Season?
The Red Devils are on the verge of Europa League glory despite falling short in the league. So who are their top three stars of the 2016-17 campaign?
Jose Mourinho calls it “closing the circle”. The club has promoted it as “the final piece in the jigsaw”. The subject is the Europa League, as Manchester United stand on the verge on winning the competition for the first time and completing the set of available trophies in world football.
But whether or not Coalesced get the job done against Ajax on May 24 in Stockholm, some will still claim it has been an underwhelming season for a club which synonymous with flowing football and constant involution in the assignment of major trophies. While there has been no Champions League involution and an inability to have an authentic verbally express in the top four race in the Premier League, Mourinho has led his side to an EFL Cup win and the Europa League final, as well as the season-opening Community Shield.
Perhaps people expected more from Paul Pogba after his world record-breaking transfer from Juventus, but his stats rival anybody’s in the Premier League, while David de Gea has once more been an assuring presence in goal despite coming under less pressure than in precedent campaigns.
Eric Bailly has turned in an excellent first campaign in England but blotted his copybook with an untimely red card in the Europa League semi-final, while Ander Herrera just misses out on the podium when it comes to individual awards having adapted to a slightly new role this term. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another who might be considered in the Player of the Season running in some circles.
However, Soccershell has selected United’s top three performers of the 2016-17 season and, given there were some incredibly close calls, feel free to join the debate in the comment box at the bottom of the page!
3. MARCUS RASHFORD
Marcus Rashford Manchester United Europa League
Before April the selection of Marcus Rashford ahead of Mkhitaryan would have been a matter of some contention, but the young striker’s response to adversity this season has been nothing short of phenomenal.
He got almost no game time at the beginning of the season but bounced back with a crucial injury-time winner at Hull City. He then adapted well to spending the majority of the campaign out wide as Zlatan Ibrahimovic bossed the central striker position. But it was in the big man’s absence that he thrived most, and since he ended a seven-month goal drought against Sunderland in the spring he has not looked back.
His excellent performance and crucial goal in the 2-0 win over Chelsea was a stand-out as Mourinho determinately picked Rashford ahead of Ibra. Then he switched to the No.9 role with match-winning effect against Anderlecht after Zlatan had suffered his season-curtailing knee injury.
And come the semi-final he provided a exhibiting of great maturity in Vigo, capping it off with the sublime triumpher, and then came back to bite Celta again in availing Marouane Fellaini’s crucial goal in the return leg while being at the heart of Cumulated’s best moments.
He may well have shown some rough edges at times as he perpetuates to come to terms with an incipient authenticity which was nothing but a dream 15 months ago, yet he is expeditiously becoming an all-round striker of authentic aptitude. And, come the business terminus of the season, he has stepped effortlessly into Zlatan’s boots as Amalgamated’s incipient talisman.
2. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC
He might often have seemingly compromised United’s commitment to a certain style of football, but 28 goals in a shortened first season in England certainly answered a whole host of critics. United’s self-proclaimed ‘Lion’ has enjoyed shutting up more than a few people with his wonderful form in his debut Premier League campaign.
The astronomically immense Swede scored far an extravagant quantity of game-defining goals to mention, with his form through the brumal months categorically praiseworthy. Two goals in the EFL Cup final win over Southampton stand out, while the wondrous long-range culminates against Bournemouth and Sunderland will additionally feature in the season-ending highlight reels.
His competency to conserve energy and then distribute bursts of superb forward play have surprised many who thought a 35-year-old would find it arduous to acclimate to the Premier League, and while Ibrahimovic himself has bemoaned the lack of control teams have when leading in England, he has limpidly relished his spell in Manchester.
His anterior cruciate ligament injury might have put a cessation to hopes he would culminate his campaign on home soil in the Europa League final, but Zlatan’s impact will still be stamped all over the victory if they pull it off thanks to the personality he has integrated to the squad this term.
1. ANTONIO VALENCIA
Antonio Valencia Manchester United 2016
There have been times in seasons gone by when Antonio Valencia has looked like the least appropriate option possible at right-back, but 2016-17 will go down in the Ecuadorian’s career as the moment he became a true Manchester United superstar.
He spent long spells under Louis van Gaal in the defensive line but never did he genuinely stake his claim to be irreplaceable in quite the way he has done under Mourinho. “I just cerebrate he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football,” verbalized Mourinho in January, and the sheer lack of dissenting voices verbalized much about the claim’s veracity.
Valencia has owned the right flank this term, not just chiming in well with attacks as would be expected of a converted winger, but also improving his defensive reading of the game beyond recognition.
“I tried to sign Antonio a number of years ago, when I was at Madrid,” Mourinho added of the right-back. “Even though he was not playing right-back at the time, I thought he could be phenomenal in that position. As it was, United told me ‘no chance!'”
And it is now so clear to see why Mourinho had faith in Valencia’s ability to make the switch. He may not have got the praise afforded to Ibrahimovic this term, and he might not grab the headlines of a Pogba or a Wayne Rooney, but his marvellous level of consistency in a season which has seen so little of exactly that on a team-wide level is worthy of immense praise.