For the past few years, picking the Manchester United player of the year has been a fairly easy job. The star man usually easily stood out. Whilst we could always commend the team effort, there was one player who was the obvious choice.
Ahead of the awards last night, you had no idea who was going to win. We put a poll up on RoM which weighed up the pros and cons of a handful of selections.
Nemanja Vidic ran away with it, with Van der Sar second and Chicharito third. Vida has been our most consistent player this season, playing at around an 8/10 for most of the season. Van der Sar had sentimentality on his side, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact he’s had yet another great season for the club. The one blip was that drop against West Brom in the only home game we dropped points. Not too shabby for a whole season. When you compare that with how many match winning saves he’s made, from positions and against shots you never could have expected it, it’s hard to argue he wouldn’t have been a worthy winner.
However, I don’t think I could be happier with the winners of the players awards this year.
Chicharito didn’t get in to the starting team until later on in the season, so it makes sense that he is more at the forefront of the fans’ minds, given his recent success. He has scored some hugely important goals and has had the best début season from a United striker since Ruud van Nistelrooy. When you consider Ruud was an established striker in Holland, scoring 62 goals in 67 league games for PSV, winning two league titles in three years, it makes young Javier’s season all the more impressive.
When you look at his season, the longest he went playing without scoring a goal was four games. Looking at the last five games where he scored, there was the opener against Chelsea in a 2-1 win, the winner against Everton, the opening goal against Chelsea in the Champions League, a goal in our 4-2 come back against West Ham, and both goals in our 2-1 win over Marseille. In his last three months of the season, he has scored 7 goals in 15 appearances, 12 of those were starts.
It’s not just what he adds to the team though. The lad is just fucking adorable. Whether you’re prepared to admit the man crush or not, that kid is just so damn likeable. He celebrates like he’s scored in a cup final with every goal and is so humble. Every time he is praised in an interview, he quickly deflects that to his team mates, and reiterates time and again that the most important thing is the team winning. In a day and age when it’s so easy to be cynical, when even your biggest heroes let you down, he’s like a breath of fresh air. I realise that sounds corny and maybe I come across a bit infatuated but I love this kid. He has all the makings of a United legend and it seems like the majority of our fan base agree!
Nani wasn’t one of the players reds were talking about over the past couple of weeks, but we were united in our outrage of him missing out on the PFA and FWA nominations a few months earlier. Why? Because he was far and away the most effective player in the league. You could prove this with stats, looking at how many goals he had scored and assisted, which put him head and shoulders above the likes of Bale and Nas-er-i. In 32 league games now, he has 18 assists and 9 goals. That is phenomenal. When Wayne Rooney was handing in his transfer request and playing badly for the first half of the season, Nani was our creative outlet, who lead the line and the carried the team through difficult patches.
Week after week in my match reactions he was one of the first players I spoke about, thanks to his brilliant contribution. I don’t think he’s ever going to be that popular amongst our fans. He’s a soft arse and that is irritating. But that doesn’t change that he’s one of the most crucial elements in us winning the title this season. When Chelsea imploded following the sacking of Ray Wilkins, it was vital we took advantage, and we did, with a massive thanks to him.
After being great for so long, Nani melted at Anfield. He assisted their second goal then got his shin ripped open by that scouse cunt and when he came back in to the team, Park and Valencia had returned. Tony can’t play on the left, meaning Nani gets shifted out there, despite him being so much better on the right. Then Park gets chosen ahead of him for the big games because of his incredible work rate and ability to step up to defensive duties. All these factors combined have seen Nani’s form on the decline, with him looking more selfish in games, so desperate to do something magical in one of the limited appearances he has, his confidence taking a knock at being left out of the team, as well as being on his less favoured side of the park.
But to be up there, making such a massive contribution from August to February, has to be recognised and applauded. The fact that his team mates voted for him, without him being the most popular man in the dressing room and being left out of the team for the past couple of months, speaks volumes. This is a team of winners and Nani was singled out for their praise. As happy as that makes me for Nani, it’s also nice to see such sensible voting from our players.
“I voted for Nani,” said Fletcher. “Earlier on in the season when people have mentioned about our form not being there Nani was winning us games and was a constant threat, either creating or scoring goals. Later on in the season other players took over and found a bit of form, but up until well into January and February Nani was the real inspiration. I had to give it him for that.”
This season, we’re more of a team than I can remember. After being told repeatedly by the media that they are the worst United side in years, they’ve clubbed together, grafted, and shown as much fight and passion as any of our previous sides.
That said, someone had to be chosen for the awards, and I’m very pleased it was these two. Whilst Vidic was arguably more worthy, he doesn’t need some club award. He’s had it before and I can’t imagine it made much of a difference to his game. I think Chicharito and Nani will love to feel appreciated by the fans and team mates though, so I’m chuffed to bits for them both.
Well done lads!
This post is brought to you in association with ‘Champions League Final Tickets‘.
The RoM 2016-17 Season Preview is available for just £5. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Mikael Silvestre, a Q&A with the country's top journalists about our transfer targets, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.