Manchester United have had quite the season so far, with a lot of things to celebrate and a lot of things that frustrate. Now, as we enter the new year and the half-way point of the season has come and gone, it is time to give out some mid-season awards.
Newcomer of the Year – Nemanja Matić
Nemanja Matić has been the signing of the year thus far for United. Matić brings consistency and stability to the midfield and his presence completely revolutionizes the attack and defense. Matić being in the midfield allows for Paul Pogba to get up field and be more of an attacking presence, which has proven successful time and time again. Matić also adds a strong defensive presence and is a destroyer of attacks before they even reach the back line. Matić has made a strong case for MVP, but as a newcomer, this award was a no-brainer.
Most Improved – Jesse Lingard
Jesse Lingard is quickly establishing a starting spot for himself in the United eleven, which was not the case last season. Lingard was a squad player for United’s side last season, finding his starting spots often occupied by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, or Wayne Rooney. However, this term he is finding more time on the pitch and is finding a lot of success. Lingard has not accumulated a lot of minutes yet, given Mkhitaryan’s hot start, but is starting to find more time because of his recent success. Lingard has accomplished 7 goals and 4 assists in league play so far this season, which easily passes the 1 goal and 3 assists he totaled last term. Lingard is hot right now, and is finding consistency under Mourinho.
Offensive Player of the Year – Anthony Martial
While some may think Lukaku belongs here because of his 10 goals and 4 assists, Martial has 7 goals and 3 assists, but with half as many minutes. Also, while Lukaku has performed very well, Martial has been United’s savior multiple times and inspires an attack when he’s on the pitch that Lukaku does not. Martial has consistently been a threat down the left side of the pitch and was even able to step up and score when filling in for Lukaku in the striker spot. Like Lingard, Martial is establishing himself as a regular starter and United is better because of it.
Defensive Player of the Year – Ashley Young
Ashley Young has been a surprise star at United this term, excelling at left back and right back with Valencia out. Young is averaging about 2 tackles and 2 interceptions a game, while also contributing 2 goals and 3 assists in league play. The partnership Young and Martial are establishing down the left side is something that teams are having trouble with and is bringing success to United. Although Young may not be a long-term solution to the left back woes at United, he is thriving in the spot in the meantime and giving United fans something to celebrate.
Most Valuable Player – Paul Pogba
The MVP award goes to none other than Paul Pogba. Pogba has been the most impressive player at United this season on both sides of the pitch. Offensively, Pogba has contributed 3 goals and 7 assists in league play, while also leading the team in key passes. Defensively, he is averaging almost 2 tackles a game and has at least one interception per game. Overall, Pogba has been the best player for United on the pitch this season. Being awarded the captaincy multiple times this season, the future skipper is living up to his price tag. The £89 million price paid for Pogba in 2016 is paying off and proving to be a bargain for such an influential player. Although Pogba has been out for injury and suspension at separate times, he completely changes the entire squad when he’s on the pitch.
Some players that did not make the list but deserve some mention are Romelu Lukaku and David De Gea. Lukaku is bringing goals back to United and has contributed a lot offensively this term. He also has proven to be a machine this term, appearing in every league game except for one thus far. He did not receive an award because he has not been as influential as others have been. Lukaku definitely has been good and is thriving at United, but has not proven as influential as Martial or Pogba on the attack.
David De Gea has also been arguably the best player at United this season and has saved United’s mistakes on multiple occasions. However, he does not receive an award because Pogba and Young have been able to contribute more to the team as a whole than De Gea has and, frankly, De Gea has had some easy games. De Gea has had many occasions where he has showed that he is world class, but there have also been some fixtures where the majority of time is spent in the attacking third and De Gea has only been tasked with a few easy saves. De Gea is the best goalkeeper in the world, but did not influence the team enough to earn an award.