Manchester United are staring at the prospect of ending the season without any silverware. Even though they apparently are going to lose out on their record 20th league title only narrowly to City, by the standards they have set for themselves they will be extremely disappointed. The home draw against Everton will haunt them for sometime, how they threw away a two goal lead was unlike anything we see from United at the business end of the season. After ignominiously exiting from the Champions League and then knocked out of FA Cup courtesy bitter rivals Liverpool, the 20th title would have been an apt response from United. But after having thrown away a eight point lead, that looks highly unlikely now.
Sir Alex refused to pin the blame on injuries, their captain Nemanja Vidic’s absence was evident and then a couple of others in the later half of the season. Paul Scholes was summoned back from retirement in a clear attempt to revitalize a lacklustre midfield,which paid dividends. But injuries have been a consistent opponent for United throughout the season. Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young, both got sidelined through injuries when they were playing their best football. In hindsight, that did hurt the side a lot.
But even then some believe, that given the injury woes and transition that this United side is going through they have done reasonably well to compete with big spending Manchester City. There have been a few really good performers for them this season, and we look at the top three.
1. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has been the most important player for the Red Devils this season. Largely used as a support striker to Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez, Wayne has flourished in that role. As the season progressed, Rooney and Welbeck forged together a very potent strike partnership – one of the very best in England. The one-twos, the dummies and the way their positional awareness reflected on their great understanding and hard work at the training grounds.
Wayne is one of the most complete players around. He has a good vision, a brilliant passing range and yet possesses all the characteristics of a potent striker. He frequently drops into that hole to shake off his marker and becomes available to his team mates for a pass. He earned the first yellow card of this season against Swansea last weekend, which testifies to the fact that he has put a lid on his temper. Playing as a lone and isolated striker against City, he did well to keep himself calm and not let the occasion get to him.
Wayne has scored 26 goals this season with four assists in the Premier League. He is behind Robin Van Persie in the top scorers charts, who is on 30. His overall tally for the season is 33 goals.
2. Michael Carrick
After having a remarkably poor season last time around, Michael Carrick started had a much better start to this season. With Anderson,Darren Fletcher and then Cleverley all sustaining long term injuries, Carrick stepped up and has improved ever since. With Ryan Giggs and then Paul Scholes, he formed a really good midfield partnership with the two veterans. He has been really good in protecting his back four, intercepting play and spreading the ball around. With a passing success ratio of 0.9, he has really discovered his old self again this season. And he is still 30, and got some years of football left in him.
3. Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia has by a fair distance been United’s most influential winger this season. Ruled out for close to a month, Valencia returned in style against Wolves with a goal and two assists winning him the Man of the Match. Valencia is one of those old fashioned wingers – strong, quick and can cross well. He has given the left backs in England a torrid time defending against him, he is a handful for any. His crosses are extremely difficult to defend, low and fast driven into the danger area. Often the strikers have to just get a touch, to see the ball, in the back of the net.
The air of predictability in his play which was perhaps pretty visible last season was gone. As much as he was running down the touchline, he was cutting inside as well to compound the defenders problems.
Sir Alex still believes Valencia should be scoring more goals over the course of a season, but it may be just a matter of time before, he starts scoring as many as he has been creating for his strikers.