One of the saddest times of the year for me, the end of the Premier League season. With the transfer window set to open soon, and having already made one great move, there is plenty to look forward to. Players will go, players will come on. Who they might be is uncertain for now. What is certain is that Manchester United will get better and, step by step, get closer to the top. For now, let’s take a look back on how the players and manager did this year.
Dan Constants takes a look back at our season and reviews the performances of our first team players and the manager. Splitting the review into three parts, starting with the goalkeeper and defenders.
Sometimes these end of season ratings are a bit hard because the most recent games are freshest in memory and the early season action can be exaggerated or forgotten in one way or another. I’ve done my best to look at the season as a whole to give my rankings. Whether you agree with them or not is your own call.
De Gea (GK) – 9 – Another Player of the Year season for the man between the pipes. At times, he basically kept our top four hopes alive single handily (sometimes with his feet and chest too), yet he can still get even better. There were times where it seemed like he should have made the save and just didn’t; or maybe I’m just being super critical. His mental strength was also tested towards the end of the season with the Madrid rumors picking up and he looked unsure of things during a few games toward the end, though he still made key saves. I, like every other fan, would love to keep De Gea here until he retires, but I’ve already come to terms with the fact that he will most likely be leaving, whether it is this summer or next, or the one after that. And I get it. He’s Spanish, his girl is Spanish, Madrid is his home. Even if he were to force a move, which he so far hasn’t publically, I can’t blame him. It’s not like he’s trying to switch to a league rival. He wants to go home. And when that time comes, I’ll be as sad as anyone, but I will understand. Hopefully that is still a few years away as Big Dave continues to get better with United every year.
Valencia (RB) – 5.5 – This player is not a right back. I repeat, this player is not a right back. I get it, Rafael was injured for much of the season and, unfortunately, looks to be on his way out and there isn’t anyone else (though I would have let McNair get a real run at it). My rating here is mainly due to Valencia’s work rate. Otherwise, he’d be much lower. His positioning is horrible, the cause for too many goals. His crossing percentage is most likely in the single digits. I understand it’s not his choosing to play this role and to his credit, he puts his head down and works hard at what he’s being asked to do. But over the course of the year, there was never any improvement in any of his weak spots and for a professional, even being played out of position, that is disappointing.
Smalling (CB) – 6.75 – The curious case of Smalling. At times, plays with class. Other times, as dumb as a rock and gets sent off in a matter of what felt like two seconds in a Manchester Derby with two horribly stupid tackles for yellow cards. But credit where it is due, that sending off seemed to mature him overnight. He came back from that suspension and became the anchor of the back for, marshalling his troops. His evolution this season was rewarded with his first game as captain and it was deserved. Is he a world class defender? No, not yet. But that promise that was there when he arrived is back in full force and if he can continue as he has this season, and stay injury free, he still just may be.
Jones (CB) – 6.25 – The man of many (ugly) faces. When he was signed, he had the potential to be one of the best. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite turned out like that just yet. A combination of injuries and versatility haven’t allowed him to flourish like was imagined. Early season frustration of injuries and the uncertainty and unease of the defence didn’t help. But, like Smalling, the more run of games Jones saw, the more assured he became. In fact, it’s the pairing of Smalling and Jones that the defence seems most settled. One thing you can never fault Jones of is his heart as evidenced by putting his head where his feet normally are. If he too can stay injury free, the centre back partnership we’ve been waiting for could finally happen.
Evans (CB) – 4.5 – Oh Evans. The senior centre back. I’ve tried to stand and defend him, but sadly, that’s more defending than he seems to do most of the time. And just when he looked set for a decent run in the side, he goes and spits on a player. Evans is still young enough that he could be a decent defender, but probably no more than a squad player at this point. As an experienced player he makes too many mistakes, too unsure of himself to ever really be counted on as first choice again.
McNair (CB) – 6.5 – A good debut season for the youth product. I, for one, am a huge fan. His first game showed he was ready for the step up. For his development, he could’ve used a run of games to get himself integrated and sorted out so it’s unfortunate that didn’t really happen. His first appearances were his better games and his inexperience did show through, not helped by the inconsistency of his minutes. Make no mistake though, the talent is there, but his best position is the question that needs to be answered before that talent can fully blossom. Once that’s settled, he could have a very bright future.
Rojo (CB/LB) – 6.25 – I didn’t know much about Rojo coming into the season, just from the World Cup. I didn’t really see what everyone else saw and thought he was a tad expensive. But he added a bite to the defence that was similar to Rafael. He was never afraid to put a tackle in, even if it was too late. He seemed like he could’ve used a strong, experienced centre back to learn from. A decent first season nonetheless.
Shaw (LB) – 5.5 (7) – The first ranking is for the overall season, while the second is for his actual play when he wasn’t injured. When he played, I thought he was great down the left hand side. His positioning on defence was good while he was always willing to get up and help in attack. Unfortunately though, his season will largely be remembered for it’s stop-start nature, getting injured basically every other game. It’s sad because he’s so young, but hopefully his youth can help him overcome the setbacks this season and get fully fit over the summer.
Blackett (LB) – 5.25 – Another youth coming through the ranks due to the early season ever growing injury list. Played as well as could have been expected and was unsure of himself when on the ball, not knowing what to do with it. He basically ended his season with a red card in the Leicester disaster. Still, got a taste of first team action and there is plenty of hope for the future.
Blind (CDM/LB) – 5.25/7 – Another player I had only known of because of the World Cup. While not a signing that excites, he seemed perfect to learn from Carrick and then take the reins. When he played in that role though, he was nowhere near those levels, choosing to mainly pass sideways or backwards and never strong enough when he needed to be, while having poor timing when picking his moments to go forward. He seemed much more comfortable playing at left back when everyone else was injured. His positioning was better, he got forward, and his defending was solid. His play there puts pressure on Shaw, but it’s anybody’s guess where Blind’s long term future position is.
Thank You For Reading
Read Part Two Here