Every season Manchester United host a Player of the Year Awards night to celebrate footballing excellence from within the club. For the seasons in which a United player would not be celebrated on a national level, the club would select their own champion within the team that season. In seasons gone by, it was an event that would occur without question; that is until the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era when excellence was started to become more scarce.
Then it became a night to acknowledge the goalkeeping brilliance of the David De Gea, the last true commander of Castle Black; manning the barricades against the inevitable onslaught of opposition forces tearing their way through the defensive frailties overseen by Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho.
De Gea’s was often the last bulwark in the fight against mediocrity at Manchester United. Like Bryan Robson in the 1980s, David De Gea has been Manchester United’s only consistent world class player since 2013 and this season, even his impeccable standards slipped.
The failure of Manchester United since late March cast a large shadow over this season’s Player of the Year Awards and supporters questioned the need for an awards night. Newspaper articles suggested that the players were ‘embarrassed’ to attend the event, given the mediocrity of the season’s conclusion.
But like with any multi-billion-pound corporations, the show must go on.
Many might have thought the MUTV event would whitewash the disappointment of the season as a whole, yet not everyone got the memo.
When asked live on air how he believed the season as a whole had gone, former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott did not mince his words, replying candidly; ‘Disappointment more than anything … the football hasn’t been inspiring, if anything they’ve let themselves down and the people who support Man United, because I think they are a bit better than that. ‘It’s not just the results but some of the football has been hard to watch, you know.’
Boycott was correct. It was not just the Mourinho team that let themselves down, but the revamped Solskjaer side ‘with smiles on their faces’ suddenly allowed to play attractive football disappointed more than ever.
Maybe it’s the hope that kills you. The highs of December and January suddenly made the lows of April and May all the more intolerable.
Nobody escaped without criticism. Not even De Gea anymore. High profile errors against Barcelona and Everton ended that. Marcus Rashford always seemed a yard off the pace. Jesse Lingard was now just a moron on Snapchat. Paul Pogba couldn’t handle responsibility. Even Ander Herrera, an eternal fan favourite, was looking to leave and out of the side.
In the end, Luke Shaw won the 2018-2019 Manchester United Player of the Year Award. Shaw receiving the award was in some ways reflective of the season’s decline. While he has endeavoured to work his way into the Manchester United side, he has been roundly criticised for his performance against Huddersfield last weekend and his general conditioning of late, meaning that the timing of his award was unfortunate.
Andreas Pereira won Manchester United Goal of the Year Award for his strike against Southampton in March. It was a fine goal, and one which almost brought the roof off Old Trafford on the day, but it’s selection for Goal of the Year was unusual.
It’s not to say Pereira’s goal wasn’t an impressive finish, but it was the type of finish that we see regularly. David Beckham scored ten goals a season that looked exactly like it. Juan Mata has scored several identical goals, and would hardly have been considered that good.
No. The finest goal scored by a Manchester United player this season was Anthony Martial’s winding run from his own half against Fulham at the Craven Cottage in February before finishing ably, in a goal that mirrored arguably Cristiano Ronaldo’s finest goal for Manchester United twelve years earlier at the same venue.
Martial should have won Goal of the Year and it might be conspiratorial to suggest, but perhaps politics are starting to take over at Manchester United. Martial has shown a horrifying decline of form since getting his new contract in January. His work rate has also been criticised and for one reason or another, it was decided that he would not be getting rewarded on the night.
Something is rotten in Manchester United, and watching a glitzy event ‘celebrating’ their worst season since the 1980s seems unbecoming of the team that United once were. It was tawdry and akin to the Liverpool team of the 1990s or the dressing room selfies of the Arsenal lads. The event merely served to remind how there is nothing to celebrate about this Manchester United squad and the sooner many of them are moved on, the better.