RoM will be rating the performances of our players a position at a time, starting today with the defenders. For all the criticism they have received this season, it’s worth pointing out that only Chelsea (32), Southampton (33), and Arsenal (36) conceded fewer goals than United (37) this season.
However, when you consider that David de Gea has proven himself to be one of the best, if not the best, goalkeeper in the world this season, the defence has certainly had a helping hand.
For many games, Van Gaal resorted to playing a defensive 3-5-2 to prevent as many goals being conceded and United’s tactics, which revolve around us keeping the ball, means the opposition has far fewer opportunities to score. United have averaged 61.2% possession in the Premier League this season, which is more than any other club. So it stands to reason that they wouldn’t let it as many goals.
Luke Shaw – 5
He played a blinder against Chelsea, his boyhood club, but this was far and away his best performance of the season. Both Ashley Young and Daley Blind both played more consistently at left-back, which is a concern given their real positions are in midfield. He’s only 19 though and hopefully now that he has the summer off he will start next season fresher. Injuries have held him back this season but he’s likely learned a lot and should come back stronger.
Marcos Rojo – 6
For a debut season in a different league, Rojo has done well. He’s probably pushing a 7 but his repeated injuries have meant we haven’t been able to rely on him at the back. He can be rash at times and his positioning isn’t always the best, but now that Nemanja Vidic has left, it’s important to have a hard man at the back, and there’s no doubting his toughness.
Phil Jones – 6
Famed for making last ditch tackles, like against Arsenal a few weeks ago when he was scrambling on the floor and stuck his head in the way to stop an attempt on goal, Jones’ commitment could never be questioned. However, since joining the club, he’s regressed if anything, and struggles without the experience of a player like Ferdinand or Vidic alongside him. Being so injury-prone is a real issue for us too. He’s so clumsy and throws himself in to challenges without any regard for the damage it can do to his body, which means he’s on the treatment table several times a season.
Chris Smalling – 7
He had a poor start to the season and was the villain after costing us the game away to City with his stupid yellow cards. To his credit, he has come back from that incident and been United’s most reliable defender in the second half of the season. There’s still plenty of work to be done with him, which is a concern considering that he turns 26 a few months in to next season, but he’s done a job for United this year. There was some redemption with his goal against City at home, and he’s managed to equal Danny Welbeck and Radamel’s scoring tally for the season!
Jonny Evans – 4
The Northern Irishman had this season to prove to Louis van Gaal that he was worth keeping around. Lengthy injuries and poor form have meant it would come as no surprise if he was sold this summer. It’s always a shame to see academy boys move on, particularly when we’ve seen how good he can be, like in the 2011-12 season, but there can’t be much argument in his defence now. Towards the end of this season, when he managed to get himself fit and other defenders were injured, he blew his last chance at proving himself by spitting against Newcastle, and was banned for six games.
Paddy McNair – 6
He was thrown in at the deep end at this season but has coped fairly well. There have been a few costly mistakes from him but that is all part of the learning process. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet and likes to bring it out of our half, which is nice to see. Paddy will be expected to raise his game next season if he wants to get in to the team though.
Tyler Blackett – 4
Many have wondered how Tyler has got in to the team and had his contract extended when Tom Thorpe hasn’t been given a look in. Like McNair, he was thrown in when United were suffering an injury crisis at the back, and at times he has done well, but more often, he has looked out of his depth.
Antonio Valencia – 5
He isn’t a right-back and has played in this position all season. The pros to his style of play are his strength and his ability to bring the ball forward. Unfortunately, his crossing is often poor (blasting it across the box and out for a throw-in on the other side, or hitting the first man) and defensively he is flawed. His tendency to take foul throws is also frustrating.
Rafael da Silva – N/A
He played just once in the league in 2015, coming on for the final three minutes in our win over Spurs, and the full 90 minutes in five games in all competitions all season. Usual injuries and clearly not fancied by Van Gaal. Expect him to leave this summer.
Overall – 6/10