It’s been a dismal campaign for the Champions – which players have managed to keep their dignity intact and who are the worst offenders?
1. Wayne Rooney
One of David Moyes’ few achievements as manager was persuading the forward to stay after the 28-year-old’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson crumbled into dust. In a season characterised by an apparent collective lack of will from a number of players, Rooney’s effort level was both reliable and productive. 17 goals is a solid return for a player who seemed ready to defect to Chelsea before the season’s start. Part of the deal in Rooney’s staying was that he would be consulted on transfers, but this is highly unlikely to be the case under Louis van Gaal, should the Dutchman finally take over.
2. David de Gea
Other than a costly slip up against Sunderland that cost his team a place in the League Cup final, De Gea has firmly established himself as one of the finest goalkeepers in the Premiership. His barely believable save from Luis Suarez at home to Liverpool prevented a 3-0 defeat turning into a 4-0 humiliation and offered a neat summary of the season for United – a flawed squad being backed up by an outstanding goalkeeper. The Spaniard has also improved drastically in the air, an early weakness which saw him routinely bullied by burly strikers.
3. Adnan Januzaj
The 18-year-old remains a work in progress, but when given chances this season displayed aggression, creativity and flair – three elements that have been in very short supply for United this season. On Sunday it was pointed out that Januzaj’s debut season bears more than slight resemblance to that of Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season at Old Trafford in terms of statistics (four goals, better dribble success to name two). Whilst it’s certainly far too early to kick the hype machine into overdrive for the young Belgian (that’s official now by the way) it will be fascinating to see how he performs in Rio, if given minutes.
…and the worst
1. Marouane Fellaini
Unfortunately head, shoulders and afro above the rest of the competition when it comes to flops. To call him a whipping boy would be to suggest he’s been treated as a scapegoat for United’s ills, but the £27.5 million signing will want to forget this season ever happened. Fellaini has been hopelessly lost in the deep-lying midfield role, displaying neither the vision, composure nor confidence often shown by Michael Carrick. His effectiveness at Everton was based on his ability to aerially intimidate defenders and use his height and strength to win headers and bulldoze his way through lines. It was a style of play simply not suited to the rest of United’s squad and his signing remains perhaps the biggest mistake among many of David Moyes’s tenure. It is tricky to see how Louis van Gaal, famed for his fondness of short passing and flowing attacking football, will find a place for him.
2. Ashley Young
If van Gaal intends to have a clear-out before the next season, Young may well find himself first out of the door. The constant controversy surrounding his penchant for throwing himself to the floor may have drifted out of the picture, but in reality Young is a deeply limited player and was the epicentre of the infamous game against Fulham when United pounded cross after cross into the opposition box and were described as a “conference” team by defender Dan Burn. There seems to be very little to Young’s game other than cutting inside from the left and crossing, or from the right, just witlessly crossing. If United are looking to re-elevate their squad to league-winning standard, they’ll need an upgrade in this position.
3. Tom Cleverley
Cleverley, along with Fellaini, has borne the brunt of the criticism of United’s midfield woes. He may be a diligent worker but the stats make pretty ugly reading. 1 goal and 0 assists in 17 starts, and at 24 we are unlikely to see any vast improvement in his game any time soon. Like Fellaini, Cleverley’s lack of creativity limits his ability to make any kind of meaningful impact on games. Defensively he contributes little, even sporting an average number of tackles smaller than the Belgian. As United descended into an average club this year, Cleverley exemplified the kind of decent but decidedly mid-table quality footballers than now populate the squad and he’ll be lucky to find a meaningful role at Old Trafford after the summer.
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