Bruno Fernandes was named Manchester United’s Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons, but does not appear likely to be in contention this time around after a below-par campaign
Manchester United were forced to shelve the usual procession surrounding their end-of-season awards bash.
Usually an evening reserved for glitz and glamor – it was determined that in the wake of their worst ever Premier League campaign, the black-tie event should not go ahead. Traditionally United use the event to honor the great and good at Old Trafford both at first-team and youth level.
But while the youngsters held up their end of the bargain, winning the FA Youth Cup earlier this month, the senior side endured a dismal season. Defeat to Crystal Palace on the final day ensured United’s campaign ended on a fitting note, with the 58 points they amassed their lowest ever tally.
The 2021/22 campaign also saw the back of popular manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, unable to stem the tide of negativity and division emanating from the Old Trafford dressing room. Ralf Rangnick was appointed as a bridge to the end of the season, but his deficiencies were also quickly exposed after a decade away from the dugout.
It meant that United only avoided the ignominy of the Europa Conference League by virtue of West Ham losing on the final day, gifting them the consolation prize of Europa League football for next season.
Erik ten Hag has recently been unveiled as United’s new permanent manager and will undertake the arduous task of running the rule over the dilapidated squad and determining how they can move forward.
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After such a woeful season, few players can be safe in the knowledge they will be a part of Ten Hag’s plans, with even fewer able to look back on the concluded year with any personal satisfaction whatsoever.
Nevertheless, players and supporters are still afforded the opportunity of voting for a Player of the Season, to determine the latest recipient of the coveted Sir Matt Busby Award. And defender Diogo Dalot believes that from their extended squad, only three players should be in consideration; namecheking goalkeeper David de Gea, midfielder Fred and top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
“That is a secret vote, I think, for us!” Dalot told the club’s media team. “But I’m sure we’re going to have two or three players who have been doing well this season. I can think of David, Cristiano and Fred – probably these three for me have been the right choices for the award. But I will decide secretly, and then the fans will decide, but I am sure whoever wins it is deserved. ”
De Gea and Fred have both bounced back from disappointing recent campaigns to rediscover some of their best form, with the former looking back to his best at points this season.
The Spanish keeper has already won the gong a record-breaking four times and can move further clear of fellow nominee Ronaldo should he come out on top again. As for 37-year-old Ronaldo, he won the award in 2007 and 2008, before he departed for Real Madrid 12 months later.
Returning to the club more than a decade later questions have been raised regarding his all-round game, but there are few doubts over his importance to this United team. In all competitions he found the net 24 times and without his 18 Premier League goals, it beggars belief at where they could have ended up.