|Manchester United won the Carabao Cup with a clinical 2-0 win over Newcastle at Wembley cap off a fine season. (Photo credit: Sky Sports)|
Manchester United may have lost the FA Cup final to Manchester City, but they weren’t mauled; they gave a good fight, and despite City’s dominance, the game could have gone either way if Raphael Varane and Scott McTominay had taken their chances at the death.
Erik Ten Hag joined in the summer, and the club has been better for it. The acquisition of Real Madrid midfield maestro Casemiro and United’s midfield found life, competing brilliantly with teams, and he was well complemented by the arrival of Christian Eriksen on a free having left Brentford.
Taking it back to the summer, United had endured a torrid season where they had three managers in the wake of bad results and groaning fans; trust in the Glazers continued to wane, and they had to make a huge statement in the summer.
From Mauricio Pochettino to Luis Henrique and some other top names for the dugout position, United settled for the Dutchman, and with a touch of Pep Guardiola in his resume, the expectation was high, and in hindsight, he didn’t disappoint.
His first statement was to set records straight and send signals to the ruling parties. In his words "I understand Manchester City and Liverpool are the ones people expect to challenge for titles, but eras do come to an end".
It didn’t quite start well for the Red Devils under Ten Hag, and words were flying in the wrong direction after two straight defeats to Brighton and Brentford. The third game was against an equally struggling Liverpool, and most pundits thought it would be three straight defeats for United; it was the opposite.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford rose to the occasion; United beat Liverpool 2-1, and that became the platform to build on. It was a little wavy along the line, but United soon settled down to life under Ten Hag, and they must be proud of the season they had.
For a manager in his transition season, winning the Carabao Cup and getting to the final of the FA Cup shows huge progress. The club also got to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, losing to eventual winners Sevilla.
Who was United’s standout player?
Most people would tilt towards Marcus Rashford, and you won’t fault them; the 3 Lions forward was instrumental to most of United’s wins with his goals, and when he’s not scoring, the club is struggling to find the back of the net. But is he the only one that stood to be counted?
Lisandro Martinez was immense in defence; what the Argentine World Cup winner lacks in height, he has in abundance in work rate and resilience. His injury troubled United, and that counts for something. Varane, David De Gea, and Bruno Fernandes are other players with a fine shout for player of the season.
On the flip side, many would fault De Gea for some avoidable goals the club conceded, especially in the Europa League games against Sevilla at home and away. Jadon Sancho didn’t prove his worth, and the trio of Wout Werghorst, Antony Martial, and Antony could have done better.
Into the future, with a proper striker that can actually put the ball in the net and ease the pressure on Rashford, Harry Kane is a name many expect to arrive, but Victor Osimhen is another. United could also use a new goalkeeper as well as someone in midfield to help out Eriksen and Casemiro.
Season verdict: B
A: Excellent season
B+: Very good and successful season
B: Very good season
C: Average season
D: Poor season
E: Bad season
F: Failed season