European Season Review: Manchester United
Written by: Sabin Castelino
With the season coming to an end, Khel Now takes a look at all the ups and downs Manchester United FC faced in 2016-2017 in this edition of Season Review.
After a dramatic first season under Jose Mourinho, the Manchester giants have made a comeback to the Champions League, while once again they had a less than satisfactory run in the Premier League. However, the Red Devils managed to perform comparatively better in the FA Cup which promises of a better display in the domestic tournaments in the next season.
|Season 2016-17 Stats|
Manchester United began their pre-season friendlies and games against Wigan Athletic on 16th July, a match they won two goals to nil. The Red Devils continued their pre-season afterwards, as they faced Borussia Dortmund six days later the win against Wigan, which marked their first defeat of the pre-season and also the debut goal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Red Devils were scheduled to take on Manchester City on 25th July, which would have been the first Manchester derby between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho at the helm of the two respective clubs. After the cancellation of the match, the Reds went on to register a win against Galatasaray on 30th July and finally a draw against Everton on 3rd August, which also marked as the testimonial match for captain Wayne Rooney.
This curtain raiser was no small feat as Mourinho had a bagful of uncut diamonds to deal with. Former Premier League champions, however, were riding on their impressive performance in the league and came in to the match with a well settled squad. A first half goal from Jesse Lingard, who has a special gift of scoring at the big occasions at The Wembley followed by an 83rd minute goal from the free-scoring Zlatan Ibrahimovic laid the foundation for the first trophy in the Jose Mourinho era for Manchester United.
|English Premier League|
The team thrown together to kick off the Premier League campaign was an odd mix of new and old who somehow clicked and lead to an impressive 3-1 victory which translated to three match winning run for the manager and a great belief for the followers that this Premier League term would be different from the clueless David Moyes era as well as the excruciating Louis Van Gaal period. But the tide soon turned for the worse for a haphazard team and resulted in a bad string of results of one win in six matches.
The team soon stabilised to go on an unexpected unbeaten run which would be only halted by Arsenal towards the slog-end of the season where United were left crippled by injuries to important players as well as having to focus on the Europa League to get another trophy and seal Champions League football. Overall the fans were excited by the brand of football on display but were left wanting more at home where United amassed an uncomfortably high number of draws.
The FA Cup campaign was started with the frame of mind to win everything that they played in but Chelsea, the eventual Premier League winners, proved too strong to beat owing to a Red card to United midfield powerhouse Ander Herrera. Mourinho, later on, thanked the referee for the dismissal of his player as the sheer number of games United would have to play would have sky-rocketed. It was a campaign to forget but a spirited performance none the less by the Manchester team.
The first major trophy of the season and Jose’s claim to fame as Manchester United Manager came through the League Cup. A campaign played to near perfection, only to be slightly shaken during the second leg of the semi-final by a resurgent Hull City but never wavering in the first major Final under the Mourinho era to clinch the silverware in a hard fought victory against Southampton where Zlatan once again showed his Master-class and the regular Wembley scorer Lingard was again on the board.
It was a trophy that Jose didn’t want but a trophy that Jose brought home. Manchester United has had a love-hate relationship with the Europa League, a competition the management deemed unnecessary and also on which the club had never won. Mourinho, unlike his predecessors, did enough to keep the team alive in the competition and when it remained the only hope to lead United back into the Champions League, Mourinho didn’t hesitate to pull the plug on their dying Premier League campaign and gather new Silverware for the Club. The Europa League Final victory came in the aftermath of the dreadful Manchester Arena terrorist attack and the team dedicated the trophy to the victims and brought a back a little joy to Manchester.
|Top 3 Players|
|ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC||ANDER HERRERA||ANTONIO VALENCIA|
After a long drawn will-he, wont-he transfer saga, the free transfer from PSG proved himself to be the deadliest striker on the whole planet where he showed that age had only made him better. Unlike other ageing stars who would settle for a big money move to China or the MLS, Zlatan decided to pack his bag and move to the toughest, most physically demanding League in the World and showed that he still had his scoring boots firmly on. United depended greatly on his goal scoring prowess and he also mentored the youth admirably.
An under-rated Spanish maestro, Herrera worked tirelessly and ceaselessly to ensure that United lived to fight another day in all competitions. Ander Herrera’s presence was so important that his dismissal against Chelsea in the FA Cup 6th round spelt doom for his team in that competition. His best performance came against the same team where Mourinho based his tactical master-class on Herrera’s man-marking of Eden Hazzard. Unafraid to put a tackle and ever willing to face a caution he was a nightmare to the opposition as well as a bane to referees whom he unrelentingly harangued to get decisions United’s way. Deservingly he was voted the Matt Busby Player of the Year by the fans worldwide.
Another example of the adage, with age, comes wisdom; Antonio Valencia comfortably settled into the wing-back role and made it his own. The winger turned right back consistently shown for Mourinho and commendably rallied the troops on-route to the Europa League Final victory. Rushing up and down the, all the while attacking and defending and never giving up was what epitomised Antonio Valencia this season. He was serially praised by Mourinho for his graceful performances and attacking tenacity. He was awarded a contract extension as well as the Players’ Player of the Year award.
|Flop of the Season|
He was touted as the next Patrice Evra but ever since the double leg break against PSV Eindhoven. Started a few games and was criticised heavily and publicly by Mourinho who questioned his work ethic and footballing mind. Too many injuries did not allow him a lot of playing time and he was indeed the Flop of the Season for Man Utd.
|Top 5 Matches|
1. 4-1 WIN AGAINST FENERBAHÇE IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE (20-10-2016)
2. 3-2 WIN OVER SOUTHAMPTON IN THE LEAGUE CUP FINALS (26-02-2017)
3. 2-0 WIN OVER AFC AJAX IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINALS (24-05-2017)
4. 3-0 WIN OVER ST. ETIENNE IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE (16-02-2017)
5. 2-0 WIN OVER CHELSEA FC IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE (16-04-2017)
|Manager's Report Card|
The signing of Jose Mourinho made all the right noises in the Man Utd fan clubs across the world heralding a new era under the Chosen One. All the hype aside, Jose brings to the table what his predecessors didn’t; a heavy trophy cabinet and an outspoken attitude rivalled only by the tenacity of the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
Jose did not disturb the clubs atmosphere but brought in reinforcement and stability with four wonderful signings among who was the World record transfer of Paul Pogba and all of this without Champions League Football.
Mourinho was tactically a master throughout the season and although at times his teams failed to yield the result he intended or failed to finish the numerous chances they created, he always stood by the team. Although public bashings of some of his players weren't all that great, it did motivate them and pushed them to work harder; the best example being that of Henrik Mkhitaryan.
All though Mourinho did not win the Premier League right off the bat, he did win three other trophies and that in itself is a plausible achievement considering that his team is in transition and he still is working to make it his own. Expect a lot more from the gaffer next season including a bumper transfer extravaganza.
|What They Need|
Manchester United has had a roller coaster of a season and some names should make way in order to make room for new signings.
In the defence, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have proven time and again how unreliable they can be. Victor Lindelof would be the perfect partner for Eric Bailly and can form a super strong defensive partnership. An alternative to him would be Rafael Varane who would also be a good addition and can play the perfect Rio Ferdinand to Bailly’s Vidic.
In United’s midfield, there is a lot of room for improvement and Nemanja Matic would provide perfect stability and while Wayne Rooney, a club legend who has seen better days, can make way for a more dynamic number 10 in James Rodriguez.
In the attack, United’s finishing has been woeful and would use a good transfer or two. Ivan Perisic seems to know how to score and provide the assist when required and would work wonders with Antoine Griezmann and Zlatan Ibrahimovic if they are able to keep hold of him.
Upon the arrival of Mourinho, expectations were surely higher than the previous 3 years, as was the belief to get silverware. The string of draws were frustrating, as was the lack of goals scored. But the Europa League victory made it up. It was a great feeling to achieve European glory, subsequent qualification for the UCL, added with the Community Shield and League Cup. Herrera is deservingly the Matt Busby POTY. Romero has proven reliable, someone Mourinho could bank on even if De Gea had to make way. Bailly for me has been the best defender this season alongside Valencia. He has the kinda ferocity you expect in a United player. As much as it hurts to let Rooney leave, one would understand if he does consider the lack of game time. Attacking side is surely where we need to look at this summer. A couple of 30+ goal scorers through the season along with the already solid defence, we can surely challenge for the PL title and compete with the best in UCL. GGMU!
In my view, it was a decent season. Maybe not as successful as we would've wanted, but we did win 3 trophies and most importantly qualified for the Champions League. My take on the season is that it is a foundation for the next season. Mourinho knows his job, he knows the stature of a club like Manchester United and he knows how to make us successful again, and I feel we're in the right direction!
As far as signings are concerned I think we need a good CB as Bailly has been the only standout performer and the rest have been poor and a good attacker as Ibrahimovic has been playing some really good football but might be out with injury and furthermore is on a short term contract, and with Rooney set to leave we need a guaranteed goal getter.
Published: Thu Jun 15, 2017 06:43 PM IST