As the clock ticks down on 2020, there’s an opportunity to assess Manchester United’s progress over the calendar year.

Given everything that’s gone on, it’s easy to forget where United were at the turn of the year.

United lost 2-0 at Arsenal on New Year’s Day, and sat fifth in the Premier League.

We’ve picked out four players who improved the most in the 12 months that followed…

Sevilla v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Semi Final
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Nemanja Matic

It’s easy to forget Matic’s situation in January.

The Sun linked him with a move to MLS outfit Chicago Fire, but the Serbian told the Telegraph he rejected offers to leave.

With his deal expiring at the end of last season, Matic’s days at Old Trafford looked numbered but he turned it around and signed a new contract until 2023 in July.

Matic was integral to the post-lockdown burst into the Champions League spots, anchoring the midfield with aplomb, allowing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes to bomb forward.

It’s no exaggeration to say he saved his United career in 2020.

Mason Greenwood’s career so far

  1. 17 first team goals in his debut season

    Greenwood tied a record set by George Best and Wayne Rooney on their first campaigns for the club.

  2. Five Europa League goals in his first season

    Greenwood’s goals in the Europa League saw him become the club’s youngest ever scorer in European competition.

  3. 10 Premier League goals

    Greenwood became the first teenager since 1997/98 to score 10 Premier League goals or more in a season.

  4. Absolutely prolific at youth level

    Greenwood scored 31 goals in 30 under-18 games, plus five in five UEFA Youth League matches. He scored three in three FA Youth Cup games, and four in seven under-23 matches, before being fast-tracked to the first team.

  5. Already a Champions League scorer

    Greenwood scored his first Champions League goal for Manchester United against RB Leipzig. It came with his first ever shot in the competition.

  6. The 20 goal mark

    Greenwood scored his 20th United goal in December 2020. He became the youngest United player to do so since Norman Whiteside in 1987.

Mason Greenwood

Greenwood only made his first Premier League start on 4 December 2019, in a 2-1 home win over Tottenham.

He had just three top flight goals to his name when 2020 started and ended the season with ten.

 

Quite simply – Greenwood’s career exploded into life in 2020. He was arguably United’s most dangerous attacker post-lockdown – another who was so crucial to the form which sealed third place.

International recognition followed as well, and 2021 will be a very exciting year if Greenwood continues on the same trajectory.

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Dean Henderson

At the start of 2020, Henderson was on loan at Sheffield United.

He had just four months of top flight experience under his belt, amounting to five Premier League clean sheets.

Now, he has made his England debut, played in the Champions League and represented United in the league as well.

He’s a genuine contender for the number one shirt, and the competition has pushed David de Gea on.

There are some who would start him every week for United – and that’s a far cry from where Henderson was at the start of the year.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
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Luke Shaw

Injury kept Shaw out between September and November 2019, with Brandon Williams’s emergence threatening his place in the side.

He responded excellently, re-establishing himself in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team.

Shaw has put his injury demons behind him somewhat, stringing together 13 consecutive league starts between January and July.

This season, he has improved his crossing, swinging in centres for Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes to head home against Istanbul Basaksehir and Everton respectively.

Now he faces a battle with Alex Telles, who is superior going forward, and will need to go to a new level once again in 2021.

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