Let me start by saying that I am a Manchester United fan and have been my whole life. I have been through the wonder years that was Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and the woeful years that have followed. At the time of writing this Man Utd currently sit in sixth place, by Man Utd’s standards this is unacceptable, however I would seriously consider this season an improvement from the three before it. Why? you might ask, well under their first season with Mourinho, United have delivered one significant trophy and are in the final of the Europa League. It may be the Champions Leagues baby brother but with teams like Roma, Ajax and Lyon competing, it is nothing to be laughed at.
Under Mourinho the football has improved significantly. Man Utd are playing the way Man Utd should, with meaning. This is something United have lacked since Ferguson has departed. In 2014 under David Moyes United put in a total of 81 crosses at home to Fulham and drew the match 2-2. Under Van Gaal United fans saw the awful decision of 3-4-1-2 with Darmian playing at centre half and Lingard at right wing back, whilst playing possession football that did not suit the team. And yes I’m aware United’s season has been far from perfect, you only have to look at the amount of home draws to mediocre teams to know that. But the play has improved, for the first time in a long time, United actually look like United. Perhaps sometimes United have looked too defensive, but that’s just how Mourinho likes it and as long as we get results thats fine with me! This style of play led to a 25 game unbeaten run after all, albeit a bad one, if that exists.
The elephant in the room… Paul Pogba, the £89 million man. I do believe his season could have been better but I don’t think its been bad by any stretch. In parts he’s showed his class and why United paid so much for him and in some games, mainly the big ones, he’s been missing. However, whenever he’s not in the team he’s missed, United have nobody to control the tempo, nobody to move the ball forward and nobody with his mobility in the centre. Another successful signing has been the Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he cost a whopping £0. At 35 years old he has looked incredible in his first and possibly only season in red. At times his age has shown and he has had some poor performances, but he has been handled and rotated poorly playing 51 games with an excellent return of 28 goals and 8 assists. Mourinho also landed himself a gem this season in Bailly, a man who has already become the main defender for the red devils and without him the back four looks lost. Then there is Mkhitaryan, the Armenian came to Old Trafford for roughly £27 million, a great deal considering he’d be worth £50 million if he had had more years left on his contract at Dortmund. Mkhi, like Pogba has shown his brilliance if bunches, but one things for sure, he will be a star once he finally adapts to the Premier League.
The cups. We’ll start with the FA cup. The campaign had a lot of promise after some good draws with some good performances. This all changed when we drew Chelsea away from home, like many I had little hope of a result but always believed. That was until the 35th minute when Ander Herrera was sent off for his second unnecessary foul of the game. The less said about the game the better. However, the league cup saw Mourinho deliver his first major silverware whilst working at Old Trafford. The man of the moment was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who put on a magnificent display scoring two goals and the winner in the 87th minute. It may not be the greatest trophy, but it’s a sign of things to come. The Europa League is where United have shined this season, reaching the final, which is set to be played towards the end of May. It may be a case of putting all their eggs in one basket to get to the Champions League but if it pays off then this Europa League run will be one to remember for United fans.
The league. This may be the most disappointing aspect of United’s season. Having been pipped by many to be the winners, the team haven’t even come close, they haven’t challenged all season. Instead United have spent the whole season chasing the top four, battling with bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City and ultimately coming up short. Excuses can be made that the players are tired from competing on all fronts all season and that Chelsea, who have only competed domestically have benefitted from this. Although this is true, it must be ignored, this is Manchester United we are talking about, this should never matter and competing for all trophies is what we should be aspiring to do.
Finally, the players. To make this short I’ll create a list of who I believe has had the best and worst seasons for United this season.
Heres the best:
- Valencia – Solid and reliable, keeps getting better and his defending has improved so much this year.
- Zlatan – 28 goals and injured before he could get more, his finishing may have been poor at times but he did everything we wanted and that was to score goals.
- De Gea – Another great season saw him listed as the PFA goalkeeper of the year, reliable as always.
- Herrera – Came on strong this year and has made his case to be a future captain.
- Bailly – Tremendous first year, everything we needed from a centre half, he reminds me of a fast Vidic.
And heres the worst:
- Rooney – I love him, but sadly he hasn’t had many great games in a United shirt this year which has seen him spent the majority of the season on the bench, fans make him a scapegoat which he shouldn’t be, but he’s clearly declining.
- Shaw – He’s a great player with a great future, but he can’t stay fit and has hardly featured this season as a result.
- Lingard – Has had some good games this year, however he offers very little other than his work rate and pace.
- Smalling – United’s best centre half in the previous season is somehow now their worst this season.
- Darmian – A solid defender who offers nothing going forward, has looked a lot worse this season under Mourinho than he did under Van Gaal.
Overall, I believe that United have had a good season. The performances in the league have been questionable and the place in the table is shocking, but United’s saving grace is their performance in Europe, and if Wayne Rooney is to lift the trophy in Stockholm, I think us United fans will be more than happy given how the previous few seasons have gone. A rollercoaster season which has been up and down constantly, but I think we’ll look back at this season and see it as the turning point in United’s road to success again.