By Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun
Congratulations to Manchester United on attaining the third position on the Premier league log, winning 47% of their matches. After all, as a Manchester United fan, I’ve never given the manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the hope of reaching a stage like this on the premier league log. Howbeit, he guided his team to ’66th point– third’, the best of the rest after Liverpool and Manchester City and they ended the campaign with a four-point cushion between themselves and fifth-placed Leicester in the race for that crucial top-four finish. You can call that a feat? On the average, Manchester United scored 1.74 goals and conceded 0.95 goals per match, 47% of Manchester United’s matches ended with both teams scoring and their average total goals per match is 2.68. Scoring a total of 66 goals, with a goal every 52 minutes, and also conceding 36 goals, conceding a goal every 95 minutes.
True, not shying away from the truth, I can say that United have struggled sometimes this season long, climbing into the Champions League spots and after drawing at home to Liverpool on Oct 1, Solskjaer’s team had entered the Old Trafford record books for the wrong reasons by recording the club’s worst start to a season since the Premier League began in 1992.
Yet a Premier League season is 38 games long and United have timed their run to perfection. Even with this, I’m a little proud of the club, despite the ‘almost good’ season we’ve had, most especially the sumptuous once we have played since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. Hence, having watched all the 38 matches played home and away by Manchester United; 30 watched via cable TV and 8 watched via YouTube highlights, I’ve come to make the ratings of how each player fared in the overall matches of the just concluded premier league.
David De gea: The club’s number one is no doubt one of the current longest serving player in the team. The goalkeeper made all 38 appearances in all premier league games this season, conceding 36 times, with a whole lot of unforgivable errors which had cost the team fortunes, most especially the semi-final game against Chelsea in the FA cup. Albeit, he has managed to keeping 13 clean sheets and 2 yellow cards in the process. He has also had some excellent games for United in some fixtures, with some mouth watering saves, although it would be fair to say that the Spanish man has not been at his terrific best. Still arguably one of the best keeper in the league, might need to step it up next year, with Henderson waiting in the wings.
Sergio Romero: Arguably, he’s the most reliable back up goal keeper in the premier league. The Argentine’s record this season is terrific, keeping 11 clean sheets in his 14 appearances in all other competitions, conceding just three times in the process. He didn’t make a single premier league appearance, should have played few, considering the poor performances of David, but hope he at least gets a few more chances in the Europa in August. I also only pray he’s not tempted out of the club in the coming season.
Lee Grant: To be frank, the English man is just one of the most inconsequential member of the ’66th third placed’ Manchester United. Grant’s only first-team action this term came against Astana in the Europa League back in November, where he conceded two goals. Apparently 37-year-old unused goalkeeper still has a new contract until the end of next season.
Harry Maguire: Yoked with the burden of the Manchester United captaincy, having just arrived this season, I can say he did well on leadership pact. Maguire had also helped with some mixture of moments. Intriguing enough, he comfortable led the defence with 2519 passes, 157 clearance, 72 interceptions, 176 aerial battles won, 1 goal, 1 assists, and a lesser 37 tackles in 38 premier league matches. He had some unforgivable shaky moments with some errors leading to goal. Howbeit, he has been key to United’s improving form in games after Covid-19 break. He’s not a bad signing afterall.
Victor Lindelof: Dubbed the ‘Ice-man’, maybe he’s not the right paring for Maigure, and has left many remain unconvinced. Sentiment apart, the centre-back has improved as the season has progressed, with 2,094 passes, 122 clearance, 29 tackles, 26 interceptions, 96 aerial battles won, and scored one league goal, and still has a lot to improve on. Albiet, he might not get the chance to do so, if Manchester United gets a better paring for the captain.
Eric Bailly: Give Eric ten minutes of action, and he will play only three minutes, giving seven out to injuries or being carefree. To be candid, injuries have restricted the Ivorian to just 4 league appearances and 1 start. The most provoking of it all is the recent match he played against Chelsea, where he was limped to bench because he was injured. I would advised the Manchester United board that he should be sold to a club where could easily revive his career without pressures.
Luke Shaw: Big Luke Shaw improved a lot this season, both on his games and his injuries concern. One can say he’s better with 34 tackles, 24 interceptions, 11 shots, and 1143 passes in 24 league matches. Seems to be the first-choice LB after a few weird years of being rotated with Ashley Young, and now of competition with Brandon Williams. However, he couldn’t end the league, sequel to injury again. Much, much better from Shaw this season. The 24-year-old has made more than 30 appearances in all competitions despite having his injury problems, and he has particularly impressed when operating on the left of a back three.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: Arguably the English man is the best defensive right back in the league, who is often criticised during stages of the season of his attacking abilities. He yet made out with highest league tackles of 129, 66 interceptions, 7 shots, 1651 passes and also made out with 4 league assists in 3070 minutes played, of which more than that is expected of a modern day right back. The former Crystal palace man is our most consistent defender, and has made that RB spot his very own.
Marcos Rojo: Rojo is arguably the most aggressive Manchester United defender, which most time cost him to be in the books of the referee. Take Rojo in a minute, and be sure that he will get to be carded. Played 3 league matches, 1 start in 122 minutes before the Argentine was sent on loan to Estudiantes. It is unclear what the future holds for the Argentine, who has also also struggled with injury. He should be sold.
Diogo Dalot: The young Portuguese have been hindered by injuries in fufiling his highly rated potentials. Maybe like a number of his defending teammates, he has struggled with injury this season, being restricted to just 4 league appearances in 67 minutes. The 20-year-old is certainly a talent, though, and will fancy his chances of challenging Wan-Bissaka over the next seasons if he’s not sold, hence things hasn’t worked out for him, which is a real shame.
Phil Jones: One of the oldest squad player of the Sir Alex Ferguson era. It has been a tough season for Jones with 2 games, 2 starts of 135 minutes. The 28-year-old has one goal in his eight appearances this term but has featured just twice in the Premier League. The English man is yet another inconsequential player, who has contributed little or nothing to the team’s improvements. He’s prone to costly errors, and can easily expose the vulnerability of the goalkeeper. He should return to the championship, maybe his ‘wealth of experience’ will help them.
Brandon Williams: Still 19, 17 matches played and 11 starts, Brandon has a lot to improve on. No doubt he’s a talent, that Ole has trusted with some appearances in all competitions and has shown his versatility by operating as a left-back and a wing-back during the current season. Had a breakthrough season, and scored his first senior goal. Looks to be an able backup for Shaw, and still very young. Will be interesting to see how he kicks on. He should probably be loaned so that he might get the playing time he deserves.
Axel Tuanzebe: Dubbed as the Manchester United future potential. Injuries have really harmed the 22-year-old since he returned from a loan spell at Aston Villa. Played 5 matches, 2 starts in 189 minutes. There is no question that he has potentials though, and the centre-back has still managed few appearances in all competitions this term, most especially of the just concluded league. Maybe he might get himself another loan option.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah: Almost the same quality as Tuanzuebe. He played just 3 matches with 2 starts of 136 minutes. The United board should consider another loan option for him.
Ethan Laird: Another promising boy is Ethan. The 18-year-old, who is highly regarded by United, has made two Europa League appearances this season, operating as a right-back against Astana and AZ. He should be left to grow, or consider a loan option. He has no league appearance yet.
Di’Shon Bernard: Albiet a prospect, yet remain an inconsequential member of the championship qualifying squad member, with no league appearance. The centre-back also turned out against Astana in November and scored an own goal as the Red Devils suffered a 2-1 defeat.
Paul Pogba: This should have been the French’s man season, but a persistent ankle problem has seen him restricted to just 16 matches played, 13 starts of 1,204 league minutes, scoring 1 goal, 3 assists. Thanks to his believable performances after the Covid-19 break. The 27-year-old is yet expected to sign a new deal at Old Trafford. I hope he stays injury free next season that he might give us what we have always expected of him.
Juan Mata: With 7 tackles, 10 shots, 2 league assists, 19 matches played, 8 starts of 758 minutes, the 31 year old Spainish man seems to have outlived is usefulness to the squad. He seems to be no longer fit for purpose, and for entirely different reasons. Lovely Juan just doesn’t have the legs any more, and isn’t the classic player Chelsea sold to united. It’s high time he’s sold out.
Scott McTominay: The young and dynamic 22 year old mildfieder always steps up at the expected moment. Arguably United’s best player alongside Marcus Rashford in the first half of the season before a knee problem stopped his progress. With 29 shots, 31 interceptions, 43 tackles, 1011 passes, 4 goals and 1 assist, one can say It has been a solid season for the Scot. One of United’s most consistent performers this season. He should fight for a starting shirt next season.
Nemanja Matic: At first, the 31 year old looked to be on his way out of Old Trafford in the early stages of the season, but the Serbian has been very, very important in recent months, especially after the Covid-19 break. Might have been excellent in patches with 1265 passes, 46 tackles, 22 interceptions, 7 shots, 2 league assists, but his lack of pace has caused quite a few problems. Wherein, not too shabby overall. Just signing two years to his contract, maybe he can share his wealth of experience with the lads.
Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos: The workaholic Brazilian has massively improved this season, in his 29 matches and 23 starts, he made grounds with 1668 passes, 60 tackles, 38 interceptions, 40 shots and held his fort admirably well in the first half of the season when he was used. One might also want to notice his less clinical abilities and roughness by with he got punished with 8 yellow cards this season. Got a bit of a raw deal after the restart, and arguably should have featured more, but he can be proud of how far he’s come. Should be in for competition next season.
Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun writes in from University of Ibadan.
Angel Gomes: The 19-year-old will still not be playing in the colours of United next season even though he hasn’t contributed to the developmental process of the squad . Has been used on just 2 occasions with 21 league minutes this season but has not really taken the chance to prove himself at this level.
James Garner: The Manchester United academy player might not have made significant impact in the Premier league games. It is perhaps a surprise that Garner has not been used efficiently with just one league appearance in 9 minutes. He still look very promising.
Bruno Fernandes: Just Bruno! Just Fernandes! This Portuguese man has utterly transformed this team, and is probably shoo-in for the club’s POTY despite just playing for 6 months. Just 14 matches played, It has not taken long for the former Sporting Lisbon to make his mark since arriving in January. A record of 8 goals and 7 assists is not bad for a January arrival, showing his contribution, and the midfielder has also brought a real sense of leadership to the club. The Premier league should beware!
Daniel James: A pundit once described the Wales man as another slightly unfortunate one. Was never supposed to play as much as he did, and has had very limited opportunities post-restart. But a decent enough 3 goal and 6 assists in 2287 minutes played and tally for his first top-flight season. The 22-year-old, Wales international has found it difficult during spells of the campaign but has been trusted to play as a forward in some of the team’s bigger games this term.
Andreas Pereira: With 1 league goal and 3 assists in 25 matches played, Andreas is just one of the most dissapointing members of the squad, having showed glimpse of promises in Valencia, where he was previously loaned. The 24-year-old Spainish man has been given plenty of chances, making enough appearances in all competitions. He has dropped out of favour since Fernandes arrived at the club. He should be sold in the summer.
Anthony Martial: 17 goals, 6 assists, 80 shots, and caught offside 12 times in 32 league appearance for the French man is not a bad one, you know? Had to step it up after Lukaku left, and did. 22 goals in all competition, as well as his first competitive hat-trick. Looks to be settling well into the #9 role, and has been one of our best players since the restart. Martial has faced a lot of criticism this season, and a bit more consistency, and could turn into a bona fide world class forward.
Marcus Rashford: Out since January due to a back problem, but came back to continue with that ‘almost sensational’ performance. The Englishman scored 17 times, made 7 assists, 95 shots and caught offside 13 times in 31 Premier league appearances. Hasn’t been at his best since the restart, seems to be getting well with the front three rhythm, but will hopefully keep improving next season. Also a thoroughly good lad.
Mason Greenwood: Arguably the best player in the world for his age. The 18 year old has managed to score 10 premier league goals, 1 assist, and 39 shots in all 31 league matches played of 12 starts is frankly ridiculous. Massively, he has also contributed defensively with 17 tackles and 6 interceptions. Looks a fantastic talent, and will certainly get more opportunities next season. The Englishman has shown his class on a number of occasions and has all of the skills required to be a huge player for the football club moving forward.
Odion Ighalo: Can only be judged on his form since January and therefore cannot be heavily criticised. The Nigeria international didn’t score any premier league goal, after making 101 minutes from the bench, yet one cannot take away his consequentiality, having helped to improve Marcus and Martial in competition. Still living the dream, and seems to do what it says on the tin. Will hopefully get a few more starts next season.
Largie Ramazani: The 19-year-old cannot just be called ‘substantial’ having made his only first-team appearance of the season, and not even in the league. The future is obviously bright for him.
D’Mani Bughail-Mellor: Better for the under 23 sides, a loan wouldn’t be bad afterall.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
I’ve been part of the people saying he should be sacked after the Burnley match, but instead he went undefeated for the rest of the league season and finished third below the two world most respected coaches, and above other tactical coaches like Lampard, Jose and all. Ole just oversaw Rashford and Martial’s best ever seasons, got Mason into the first team in emphatic fashion, saw Luke Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Fred, McTominay and Williams all improve under him, and did it all with the youngest squad in the Premier League, all while constantly being told (by a certain some people) that he’s out of his depth. United’s end of season run was incredible, and Ole deserves all the credit for that. He the did the most impactful thing by bringing in Fernandes to change situation. He’s changing the situation of things by piecemeal, ‘the enthusiastic fans’ thus expects better signings to challenge in the league next season.