It’s been a long and tough season for José Mourinho’s men. A gruelling 64 matches have pushed this current side to their limits although 2 ‘proper’ trophies as well as the Community Shield victory back in August has seen many believe that it’s been a very good season for United. Just falling 2 matches short of the maximum games that could be played (not counting FA Cup replays which would make 5). Many players have shone at different times of the season, with many considering the winning streak over the Christmas period as the best time of the season. As we reflect on the 2016/17 season, including all 64 matches, here are what I would consider each player’s performance over the course of the season out of 10 followed by a description to back the numerical score up.
The likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and Joel Pereira haven’t had enough game-time for full ratings but all 3 have been sound when called upon.
David de Gea 8 – He may not be around next season and been as spectacular this season compared to last, but the Spanish stopper has been a reliable and world-class goalkeeper yet again. He has made a few errors and not played the majority of matches he would have expected to start in such as the Europa League Final. The ever-improving Spaniard has done nothing to truly damage his reputation this season but even with United securing Champions League football, de Gea may have already packed his bags.
Sergio Romero 8 – The Argentine who signed on a free transfer just under 2 years ago has shown his remarkable quality again. United wouldn’t be going too far wrong if they had the 87-time capped International goalkeeper as their first choice next season. With saves that are on the level of David de Gea and other top goalkeepers, many believe him as the best back-up goalkeeper in the world. After starting in the Europa League Final and being crucial in that campaign, the Argentinian is surely in Mourinho’s good-books.
Eric Bailly 8 – The 22-year-old Ivorian has been extremely impressive. By far the least high-profile signing of the summer, Bailly has shown experience beyond his years and his Vidić-esque play style has been a breath of fresh air for the Premier League and more importantly Manchester United. With age on his side, the only worry for Bailly is his knee which kept him out of action for a long time over the winter and seems to be hurt almost every game now. It was a pity he was suspended for the Europa League Final but he is sure to be the man who Mourinho is looking for a partner for in the coming months.
Daley Blind 7 – The versatile Dutchman on paper and on the pitch is nowhere a Mourinho-type player. Lacking in pace, height and not being a ‘specialist’ in a position, Blind has struggled for chances this season but has shown his quality when needed. He may leave in the summer due to the currently state of the squad and Mourinho’s own agenda but he has done nothing to prove he’s not up for the challenge. His partnership with Chris Smalling rarely fails and when that pairing was chosen again for the first time in months, the two did very well.
Matteo Darmian 6 – With the Italian looking lackadaisical for the majority of the campaign, many have seen as a surplus to requirements this summer. With the exceptional performance of Antonio Valencia at his preferred right-back slot, Darmian found his place at left-back towards the end of the campaign and has been sound. He even slotted in at a sort of defensive midfield role against Chelsea in which he did excellently. He also had a good showing against Ajax in the Europa League Final which helped United walk away with both a trophy and a clean sheet. Mourinho will have a difficult time over summer attempting to make up his mind over the former AC Milan and Torino defender’s future as Mourinho always opts for one attacking full-back and one defensive.
Phil Jones 7 – After an injury-plagued season last time out, Jones came into the United team in November and formed an unexpected formidable partnership with Marcos Rojo which was at the heart of that winning run in the festive period. Jones looked destined for the exit door along with Rojo in the summer but they proved their worth. However it was no surprise to many when Chris Smalling injured him on England duty and kept him out of the frame until May which hindered his season.
Marcos Rojo 7 – After months of speculation about his future, the fiery Argentine built up an excellent centre-back partnership with Phil Jones in the winter and from then on, many United fans have finally taken to him. The left-footer has looked great alongside Bailly, Jones or Smalling and will surely be around next season to stake a real claim, when he’s back fit, as this season was prematurely ended for him with knee ligament damage.
Luke Shaw 5 – Another injury-hit season for the young England full-back has left Shaw still yet to complete a full season for United. The lightning quick full-back is yet to nail down a real run of games for United without being hampered by injury. Next season may be his time to shine in a red shirt.
Chris Smalling 5 – The man who seemed transformed last season under Louis van Gaal and was a captain numerous times last season has been less than spectacular this season. He formed a great partnership with Daley Blind and when it came to playing with a non-footballing centre-back in Eric Bailly, the England International didn’t step up to the mark. A poor display at Stamford Bridge seems to have shook Smalling and at 27, his future may well be elsewhere despite his crucial assist and performance in Stockholm.
Antonio Valencia 9 – The beast of an athlete seemed unfit for the right-back role after being played there time and time again but when news emerged that Mourinho attempted to sign him from United at Real Madrid to play as an attacking right-back, eyebrows were raised. The Ecuadorian has been given a huge license to get forward and despite being 31, has shown how magnificent he still is. His performances were recognised when he picked up the players’ player award for the season and it was thoroughly deserved but also just missed out on the Sir Matt Busby player of the season to Ander Herrera. A contract extension in January for another year was built upon just recently with a new two-year deal with an option for a further year which means this season has bought him many more deserved years at the club.
Michael Carrick 8 – The experienced now 701-game defensive play-maker came into the side just before winter for the third season running and showed his class yet again. Excellently shielding the defence and creating attacks from deep in addition to his classic move of cutting the oppositions passing lanes has worked well for the veteran. He improved the whole side when he came into the side and massively helped out Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo when he was deployed in front of them. When things did click into place in the winter, the English stalwart was the final piece of the jigsaw for Mourinho. After just recently gaining another new 1-year deal like he did last summer and his showcase testimonial on the horizon, Carrick is set to be integral to the squad next season, once again.
Marouane Fellaini 7 – Love him or hate him, Fellaini seems to be able to impress every manager who has him at his disposal, even saying he would ‘break his foot’ for Mourinho. He may lack discipline and gets outsmarted by the likes of Sergio Agüero every few games but he can perform well either as an attacking midfielder, like in the Europa League Final, or as a deep lying role such as at Anfield.
Ander Herrera 8 – A truly excellent season for the United-at-heart Spaniard. The former Athletic Bilbao man has been deployed in a number of different roles by Mourinho and has done his job almost every time. He completed a 3-man midfield of Michael Carrick, himself and Paul Pogba which Mourinho has favoured it in most league games ever since it began. The trio managed to mirror the midfield that Pogba was the most successful in at Juventus and worked a treat especially only that purple patch in December. His performance on Eden Hazard against Chelsea and the goal he scored in that game was a perfect example and tip of the iceberg of Herrera’s sensational season.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 7 – The Armenian arrived with a huge reputation from Borussia Dortmund and after getting some game-time early in the season, Mourinho hooked him out of the team for months and he emerged a star. His goals in the Europa League – aswell as arguably the most important in the Final and the league – were a huge testament to his hard work. Mourinho unleashed him in November and it felt like the boss had wound him up well and he sped on right till the end of the campaign. In his prime, the Armenia national team captain is sure to be a success next season.
Jesse Lingard 7 – A player who divides opinion has silenced many doubters this season. With crucial goals, hard work and a love for the club that runs years, deep Lingard has the potential to be a key squad player for years for the Red Devils.
Juan Mata 7 – Tipped by the vast majority to be axed by Mourinho last summer as he was axed in Mourinho’s first 7 months at Chelsea in 2013/14. After being substituted off after being substituted on in the Community Shield match against Leicester, speculation arose that Mourinho was aiming to ‘kill’ Mata by doing this in United’s first professional outing of the season and at Wembley against the champions. The Spaniard clearly managed to impress Mourinho and despite it not being his best season, Mata has provided goals and assists on numerous occasions. His work was rewarded by a start in the Europa League Final. His future at United may be unclear but he hasn’t done himself any harm other than getting a year older.
Paul Pogba 7 – To be the world’s most expensive player, still a young player and a player returning to his academy club, the £89m Frenchman was never going to have a stunning season. With some deserved criticism in the big games, Pogba’s importance seems to have been forgotten and is crucial in all games for United in terms of their play-style and his superb creativity. Next season he is sure to kick on and with time on his side and the passion for the club, the United academy graduate should be the hero everyone expects.
Ashley Young 7 – Like Fellaini, Young is player many would like to see leave. His versatility to play anywhere on the pitch out wide has been capitalised on Mourinho as he has comes in for big games such as his first league start of the season at Anfield. He was even given the armband for the home match against Chelsea which exemplified Mourinho’s faith in him and just why he didn’t want to sell him in January.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 8 – The Swedish hero. In his mid-thirties, the 6ft 5 inch striker who lacks pace was predicted by many to not suit the Premier League however the opposite has occurred. Before an unfortunate knee ligament injury in the same game as Marcos Rojo’s, Ibrahimovic had scored 29 goals in all competitions and been nothing short of superb. After a honeymoon period in the early months of the season and then a goal-drought he began to show his quality. Likened to Eric Cantona since the day he announced his departure from PSG and move to United, his incredible opener & late winner in the EFL Cup Final and equaliser against Liverpool were mid-season highlights of what the consistently prolific striker brought to United. He may not being around in a United shirt or European league next season but his quality will never be forgotten.
Anthony Martial 5 – The talented winger/striker came into this season off the back a disappointing EURO 2016 campaign both personally and for his country. Adding to his frustration was the loss of his number 9 squad number which ended the authenticity of his then new brand, ‘AM9′. With Mourinho seemingly having a personality clash with the very laid back Frenchman has lost the young star his place in the side most of this season. For Martial, it’ll take a lot to regain the boss’ faith and trust in him for next season in which many hope he can do.
Marcus Rashford 7 – After not being favoured by Mourinho for most of the season and then getting his chance through injuries later on in the season, the sensation that is Marcus Rashford has shone again. He’s produced both goals and assists in the Europa League latter stages and made a success of his season by sheer determination and raw talent. A hugely bright future lies ahead.
Wayne Rooney 6 – It could have just been the record England and United goal-scorer’s last season at United and his 13th has not been as successful personally as many before. After 2 seasons of being automatically picked under Louis van Gaal due to ‘captain’s privileges’, Mourinho controversially dropped the now 31-year-old in a home game over against Leicester in which United won 4-1. He has been almost seamlessly been put out of the side and had cameo roles in the team in big games but did get a number of starts towards the end of the Premier League campaign in the more ‘meaningless’ games. However, it must be noted, in bold, that Rooney broke Bobby Charlton’s goal-scoring record of 249 goals to secure a draw at Stoke in January and maintain United’s unbeaten streak. After being left out of the England squad when he was fully-fit for the first time in years, Rooney’s future of both club and country remains to be seen. Some see him as a legend and some see him as a player who has disappointed overall, whatever opinion you have, it could well be the end.