A pointless review of a select few United players this season
Because we just haven’t got time to do everyone. With added, pointless star ratings.
David de Gea
United fans’ staunch defence of the maligned Spaniard mid-season was admirable (well most of them did, anyway), as they felt they had to; partly, because they’d seen flashes of a £20million player and partly because they didn’t want another Roy Carroll, another Raimond van der Gouw. The press were themselves determined to find another Massimo Taibi to laugh at, joking that this mug from another league wasn’t cut out for the physical nature of the Premier League and dismissed him as some sort of competition winner, who was probably given a replica shirt a size too big. It was only the gloves that were XXL as David de Gea found that replacing Edwin van der Sar was never going to be achieved in just a year — but he’s progressing nicely and can look back at an encouraging début season. United will hope he maintains his post-January form going into the first game in August.
He gets three pointless stars; because, yes, while it was certain his bad form in his first few months at the club was just a temporary thing that can easily be put down to naivety and nerves, it cannot be avoided. Nor have we (just me) quite worked out how good three stars is, but, here, take them Daveeeeed.
The form of Phil Jones, who enjoyed temporary — yet bizarre — cult status in his first few months as a United player, wavered a little towards the end of the season. The problem Jones has is this: he may be far too versatile to be taken seriously. It would be genuinely interesting to see how he does next season and how exactly he’ll be utilised; when John O’Shea was a United player, he was respected and reliable, but there was a ceiling — his peak so difficult to distinguish that the mountain was probably a slightly bumpy, square-ish rocky thing. Or something. The danger now for Jones is that he can’t just be a good player, he needs to be more because United require him to be. Is this too harsh? Of course, although it’s overdue given how much he’s been talked up — that includes all kinds; hyperbole and über-hyperbole. (Interestingly, he’s looked his best at right-back this season — not bad for a centre-half that can do a job in midfield …)
The personal stance is this: he can and should be a really good player, perhaps even future captain and whatever else, but the second half of the season exposed some obvious flaws (that fans/observers/pundits were happy to ignore because it was more fun than way) — which we’ll put down to the player’s naivety — that many opposing players were happy to capitalise on. It is important, then, to point out that there is a lot of work to do and we’ll certainly learn more from his second season than the first.
From a piece on Evans, March 2012:
Evans has not been perfect — but screw perfection. He’s been an able deputy in Vidic’s absence and has looked as good as experienced partner Rio Ferdinand – heck, he’s performed even better.
Patrice Evra has always been good with words. He once said of France’s Lilian Thuram: “It is time that Lilian stops playing a role that isn’t his to play. Walking around with books on slavery in glasses and a hat does not turn you into Malcolm X.” Considering all this, I think we can forget that this hasn’t been an entirely great season for United’s left-back and stand-in captain in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, a post-World Cup 2010 decline that’s extended into its second year. Still, he’s not been that bad, but … two stars, in appeasement perhaps, to those that think he has.
Pass, pass, pass, ooh a little slip, get up, dust yourself, pass, pass, shoot, pass, pass, tackle, pass, interception, pass, final whistle, three points. He gets four stars.
Paul Scholes, the scruffy, half-blind, asthmatic messiah brought down to Old Trafford in January to aid an ailing Manchester United side — or already ailed according to some back then — has shown that, despite its negative connotations, it’s never so bad to act desperately. Indeed, many have retracted their initial cynicism for the U-turn; it’s only a desperate masterstroke, now, as we look back on it.
He’s been arguably as influential as any other player post-January and United have looked in most control with him in the side, barely able to drop points; the City defeat perhaps the only game in which he has disappointed. Painfully, United were without Scholes in all three losses to the combined force of Wigan Athletic Bilbao. Even if he were to stay, central midfield is an area where United have to invest in.
Football is, according to Mark Kelleher, a “mental disorder”, where “beauty is often too infrequent” — and that’s, well, true. Rather than your life, it can be a horrid, tragic extension of it and we sometimes wonder why we bother at all. Which is perhaps why we enjoy the good aspects of the game so much that seem increasingly rare as we get older. Valencia, battling and booming down the right-wing, falls into an esteemed category of players that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside — when we watch these types, we remember why we enjoy the game so much.
And Valencia, not without a few difficult, yet thankfully short-lived, periods, has been exceptional in the middle part this season. Valencia’s biggest success was being able to provide a service for those that need it; relieving the workload for the other winger in his team, the full-back behind him; pinging in an endless supply of crosses like a troubled kid on a roof with a new batch of water-balloons. And United sorely missed him in the Manchester derby defeat — heck, they were not even able to attempt a shot on goal, creating little.
Who doesn’t dearly love a stutter? A powerful, beastly and lethal strike? A measured, yet wonderfully-vicious, cross?
Below is an excerpt from this piece posted on the site last week.
Rooney has managed to score 27 goals from 34 in Premier League games. That statistic, in isolation, is good enough for some to go far enough to say the forward has been United’s best player this season. But Rooney has a lot to answer for. He is not just their chief goal-getter; but also their playmaker. It is partly true that United rely on Rooney too much for his own good; indeed, he has only really fulfilled his role as the goalscorer, and yet not much else. This season, it’s been a bit of both and neither, played everywhere and nowhere; given the target of 40 goals and yet, at the same time, (probably) told create goals for others, too.
Too often this season, when Rooney has tried to assume that playmaker role, he has played a bad pass for every good one, being far too negligent and careless and a bit of hindrance as United go forward. That, typically, followed by a strop or a sudden goal from the penalty spot … it’s clear that this is not Rooney’s best season at the club, only a good one, despite what some may say.
It’s amazing to think that Welbeck still has his doubters. But he does, even after a largely-impressive first season as an established senior which saw his goals tally nicely into double figures. Perhaps more importantly, he’s been consistently good — the romantics among us have dearly missed Dimitar Berbatov’s presence but Welbeck has been an able deputy, not too dissimilar at times, either; even nudging Javier Hernandez (not a bad second for the Mexican: ★★★☆☆) to the bench. And what’s not to love in a local lad, eh?
I’ve not enjoyed this at all. The star rating was rubbish. The season was well, good; for a bit. Bye. And have a horrible summer.