Very belatedly, the voting for Manchester United’s player of the season has been opened.
Back in March when the season went into lockdown, we put together a list of five contenders for the award.
These were Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Bruno Fernandes.
After a frenetic end to the season, the favourite may be a different player, Anthony Martial.
Martial returned from lockdown in great form, scoring United’s first hat-trick since 2013, on the way to inspiring the Red Devils to an unlikely third placed finish.
Even in games he did not score, Martial influenced them, providing the assist for the equaliser at home to West Ham in the penultimate league game, and winning the penalty on the final day against Leicester.
He outshone Marcus Rashford, while Fred and Scott McTominay lost their places as regulars in the side. Aaron Wan-Bissaka remained solid without being spectacular.
Martial’s biggest challenger is the player who inspired his upturn in form, Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes played just half a season, but what a contribution it was. Without him, United would not have finished inside the top four. It’s that simple.
His instant connection with Anthony Martial was central to United’s success, with the team going unbeaten for the final 14 Premier League games.
Bruno Fernandes’ impressive Manchester United debut season
- Fernandes averaged a goal contribution per game
Fernandes ended the season with 12 goals and 8 assists in 20 appearances.
- Fernandes enjoyed a 100 per cent record from the penalty spot
Eight of Fernandes’ goals were penalties, with a decisive strike on the final day of the season against Leicester, and another in the Europa League semi-final.
- Almost unbeatable
Fernandes did not lose any of the 14 Premier League matches he played for Manchester United. His only two defeats in 23 games came in cup competitions.
- Creative star: He was United’s second highest league assister
Fernandes’ average of 2.1 key passes played per game was the sixth best in the Premier League of players who started 10 games or more this season.
- Impressive United and Sporting combined numbers
In his 50 appearances this season for both clubs, Fernandes scored a total of 27 goals and provided 22 assists.
Anthony Martial’s journey at Manchester United so far
- Fantastic debut season
United paid an initial £36 million fee to sign Martial from Monaco which could rise to £58 million. He enjoyed a dream start with a memorable debut goal at Old Trafford against Liverpool. Martial netted 17 goals including an impressive FA Cup semi-final winner against Everton as United went on to win the trophy.
- Moved aside under Mourinho
Martial was stripped of the number nine shirt for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which summed up his decreased involvement in Jose Mourinho’s plans. Martial was reduced to a bit-part squad player, featuring from the left. He scored eight goals in 2016/17, followed by 11, and 12 the next two seasons.
- Back as a number nine
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave Martial his favoured number nine shirt back and restored him to a central striker role. It was a decision which paid off with Martial grabbing the opportunity and looking hungrier than goals than ever. He ended the 2019/20 season with 23 goals and eight assists, his best tally for both.
A special word for Mason Greenwood
While Martial and Fernandes will be the top contender for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award, Mason Greenwood will pick up his share of votes too.
Greenwood was another spark who lifted United after lockdown, outscoring teammate Marcus Rashford during this stretch.
The teenager ended the season with 17 goals, equalling George Best and Wayne Rooney’s contributions from their breakthrough seasons.
Greenwood is a shoe-in to win the top award in the future and it would not be a surprise even if it happened next season.
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