While 2015/16 was undoubtedly a disappointing season for United, the appointment of Jose Mourinho as Manager, along with the signings of Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, convinced many supporters and pundits that United would challenge for the title this time around, although more realistically a Champion’s League place should have been guaranteed with further additions still obviously required to turn the side into genuine challengers.
While there were spells during the season where a title challenge appeared possible, ultimately too many disappointing home results were to prove crucial, and Mourinho’s United settled for sixth place in the table. While “if’s and but’s’ serve no positive purpose other than to those speculating, it is in reality difficult not to imagine what United may have achieved this season had just two or three of those home drawn matches been victories. Thursday night football in the Europa League definitely had an effect on league performances and Mourinho generally picked his best available side in European fixtures, which was bound to have a knock on effect in the Premier League. There were once again numerous injuries, an issue at the club since Sir Alex Ferguson retired (suggesting that the treatment room is a comfortable place for the players to be), but ultimately they were not to prove too costly as the Europa League win earned United a place back in the Champions League for 2017/18, a place that they failed (or chose not to pursue) to grab through their league placing. Here we assess the Manager and each player on their performance throughout the 2016/17 season, using the traditional grading from 1-10, marking each player on their performances and effect on the campaign as a whole.
On taking the United job Mourinho accepted the undoubted pressure and scrutiny that comes along with the role, the level of which may even outstrip that he faced at Real Madrid. He guided his team on a record breaking unbeaten run as well as bringing three trophies back to Old Trafford, and qualifying for the Champion’s League. Considering his objectives at the start of the season would probably have been to win a trophy and qualify for the Champion’s League, then he should be beyond reproach. However he was criticised at times for his sides failure to convert chances and kill of lesser teams, while supporters of other clubs rejoiced late in the season when he chose to pursue the Europa League rather than a top four finish. Much more was expected of him in the league, but based on the fact that he has taken United back into Europe’s top competition and won two trophies, it would be difficult to give him less than 8/10.
David de Gea
Undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, if not the world, but could not really claim to have had his best season in a United shirt. After several seasons where he has been almost faultless, he has conceded goals that he (probably) be disappointed with. Rumours of a transfer to Real Madrid refuse to go away and while last summer the thought of de Gea departing would have been unthinkable, this time around supporters would probably accept it should a decent replacement be found. Match winning performances of previous seasons were not really to be seen in 2016/17 and he seemed more error prone than in the past. Considering some of the disappointing goals he conceded, as well as the fact that he was not really missed when Sergio Romero played, it would be difficult to score de Gea higher than 7/10 for the season.
Proved a more than able back up. When afforded the opportunity to be Number 1 by Louis van Gaal last season, Romero looked shaky and nobody believed him to be anything other than a short term solution. This time around, given assurances by Mourinho that he would play more than his fair share of games, he has shown that he is undoubtedly the best back up goalkeeper around. Whether he is capable of stepping up to become a United number one long term remains to be seen, but in fairness to him he probably outperformed de Gea in 2016/17, culminating in his selection in the Europa League final. 8/10.
Once considered a half-decent replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, and then largely a back up player at United, he has not become arguably the best right-back in the league (if not Europe). It would be a struggle to think of any disappointing performances from him during the season, and it was fitting reward that he was named as captain later in the campaign, specifically the Europa League final. 9/10.
Nobody really knew too much about him when he joined the club, but they definitely do now. Undoubtedly one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and has proved to be an inspired signing by Mourinho. Disappointing that he missed out on the Europa League final through suspension and also suffered a couple of injuries that held him back, but his season would still have to be considered a huge success 8/10
A typical Phil Jones season, injury followed by injury, inconsistent performances and then another injury. Should Mourinho bring in another central defender in the summer then it will probably be Jones that is sold to make way. There were good performances in there, but there were also some truly awful displays, would struggle to justify giving him more than 5/10
Nobody really rated him prior to this season, yet he managed to change opinion to the point where his injury in April was greeted with despair by many supporters. His performances improved massively, but should Mourinho bring in central defenders in the summer, then Rojo will find it hard to break back into the side when fit. Having said that, he deserves credit for this season as a whole 7/10
Has not really progressed since he joined the club. Several decent displays and an equal number of appalling performances throughout the campaign. Was fortunate to be selected in the Europa League final all things considered, and his selection over Jones in that game suggests that he may well be more highly considered by the Manager going forward. Cannot realistically claim to have had a good season though and his continued inclusion in England squads is more due to their lack of options rather than Smalling’s performances 5/10
Great footballer, technically superb, pace none, positional sense none. Difficult to criticise him too much as he was never given a run in one position, however it’s difficult to give him too much credit as he never did anything to deserve that run. An average season at best for the Dutchman 6/10
Criticised by Mourinho, backed by supporters. Other than that short spell early in 2015/16, he has never really looked like a top class full-back. Should he be retained, and his injury may well mean that he is, then he will need to improve massively to convince his Manager that he is a United player. 5/10
At the end of 2015/16 it seemed that he would become a fixture in the side the following season. Never really happened for him this time around and he seemed to struggle to earn his Manager’s confidence. When he did play he performed reasonably, without really threatening to make himself an automatic choice. 6/10
Not convinced he’s a United standard player, he was generally poor whenever selected. Doesn’t seem to offer a lot going forward and is shaky defensively, not ideal for a full-back. That said, Mourinho seems to have faith in him to perform and he may well remain at Old Trafford next season, in spite of speculation linking him with a move away. 5/10
Rated highly by followers of the U23 squad and has generally impressed when (eventually) selected in the first team. He will expect to be in the match day squad more often that not next time around. 7/10
The World’s most expensive player started slowly after joining the club late following Euro 2016 and his widely reported holiday in the USA. Around October/November he started to impose himself on the side and was truly producing impressive performances going into January. He produced a horror show against Liverpool at Old Trafford, a game he was expected to dominate and then suffered an injury shortly afterwards, that ruled him out for some weeks. He returned to the side with some success and produced a fine display in the Europa League final. Not a bad first season, in spite of what some people would report, but still more should be expected of such a prodigiously talented player. 7/10
A decent season, with some important goals thrown in, including the winner over Manchester City in the League Cup. Not convinced that he will ever be first choice every week for Mourinho, but the Manager did show faith in him for some crucial games. Difficult to criticise anything he has done since he joined United, and he truly gets what being a United player means, but he will need to produce more consistently if he is to remain in the side once squad additions are made this summer. 7/10
Hated by everyone who thinks that every United player should be a superstar. High work-rate and decent tactically, Manager’s trust players like Lingard, who they know will give them a certain level of performance every game. Although he’s decent technically, he’s never likely to be World-Class and will probably never be an automatic first choice at United, but every squad needs players to come in and do a job, Lingard falls in that category. 7/10
Was under-rated for many years while producing top class performances. Not capable of that level anymore and has become a squad player at best. Still played well at times throughout 2016/17, without ever making himself an automatic choice. Will probably be more appreciated once he’s retired for what he achieved throughout his United career, but in terms of 2016/17 he had an average season. 6/10
Never an automatic choice, and was not seen for weeks at a time. Never let the side down when called upon and actually produced a few decent displays. Mourinho trusts him to perform in certain matches, but would still be a surprise to many if he remained at Old Trafford for 2017/18. His lack of appearances mean that he cannot be scored too highly. 5/10
A player who has flattered to deceive since joining United, whenever he was not selected supporters claimed he was missed, yet when he played he was unimpressive. This season that changed as his performances led to him becoming a key player in the side and earning a call up to the Spanish national squad. He surprised many by showing that he can perform as a holding midifelder, when it was his creativity that had first caught the eye. Not a surprise that Barcelona are interested in taking him back to Spain, but Herrera seems to enjoy life at United, and with an almost guaranteed spot in the side at the moment it would be a surprise to see him leave. 8/10
Much was expected of the Armenian, arriving as a top player in the Bundesliga, yet he started slowly. A poor performance against Manchester City in September led to him being left out of the side for several weeks while he settled into life at Old Trafford. On breaking back into the side he performed well and was a key figure in the run to the Europa League final, and he scored a crucial goial in the final itself. He will be looking to step up a level in 2017/18. 7/10
Hated by many fans, seemingly loved by Mourinho. He has the trust of his Manager, which counts for a great deal in football terms. Actually started the season well and many began to revise their opinion of him, then a red card in the Manchester derby returned him to his previous position. Will never be loved by supporters, but does a job for the team and would probably be a surprise should he depart the club this summer. 7/10
Hard to believe that he was once as good as Cristiano Ronaldo. Can’t think of a single good 90 minute performance from Rooney during the season. Undoubtedly a United great, but it his best days are long gone. In fact he’s probably been average for as many years as he was top-drawer, which is a shame for the clubs all time record goal scorer. Considering United’s transfer targets, Rooney’s wages and his diminishing ability, it ould be a surprise if he remains at United for 2017/18. 5/10
Seemed to have the World at his feet at the end of last season, then a poor Euro 2016 was followed by a disappointing start to the season with United. Never seemed to convince Mourinho that he should be a first choice in the side and in spite of backing from the stands, his performances were far below those of 2015/16. He has a lot of work ahead of him to fulfill his potential and to earn himself a place in Mourinho’s plans for next season. 6/10
All of Mourinho’s summer signings paid off, but none more so than that of Ibrahimovic. A goal-scoring debut at Wembley in the Community Shield was followed by an impressive 28 goals before his season ending injury in April. Yes he missed plenty of chances at crucial times, but he also scored plenty goals at crucial times and led the line alone throughout much of the season. He was never rated by English football supporters, on the traditional basis that he has ‘…never done it against an English team in the Champions League’, so many will have been surprised by the impact he made at Old Trafford. It would be a disappointment to many should he depart the club in the summer. 9/10
Less of an impact that last season, yet earned the trust of his new Manager through his tactical performances rather than his goal scoring. Now a regular in the England squad, he should go on to become a player of huge quality. Scored some important goals throughout the season, but will be looking to significantly increase his tally in 2017/18. The expected signing of a new striker will limit his opportunities, but it is up to him to make sure that he takes those available to him and earns a regular place in the side in his preferred position. Hard to be too critical of him, but he will be disappointed with his goal tally for the season. 7/10
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