By Tom Pattison
Tommy’s 2010 Awards:
In a characteristically unimaginative offering I present my Manchester United awards for the calendar year 2010:
Player of 2010
1 Luis Carlos Almelda da Cunha (Nani)
– A year ago I was prepared to throw in the towel on Nani. He appeared to have learned only petulance from his Madrid based former team-mate and was consigned to the fringes of the first team. To say the lad has turned it around is quite the understatement. I pencilled him in as ‘most improved’ for these awards but when I really thought about it he deserves the top gong. The biggest fear when the class of ’92 finally rest their aching limbs is who will take on the mantle of being a proper Manchester United player – a dazzling showman who also steps up in the biggest matches. Nani is that man. When Patrick Ewing used to carry the New York Nicks he was commonly referred to as being the ‘go to guy’ when something special was needed – for Man United Nani has become something similar.
2 Nemanja Vidic
– Every Sunday morning I trot out for my team Sumners Athletic FC and do my best attempt at a Nemanja Vidic impression. It is not a very effective impression as our goals against column reveals. I console myself with the blatant lie that most of the time the goals we concede are not my fault. In Vidic’s case – particularly in the current season – this would be a fair claim for our captain. When others in our back line (including the usually flawless Evra) were paying homage to Larry White and Alien years, Vidic remained our beacon of defensive excellence. Quite simply he is undeniably the finest defender in the League, if not Europe, if not the World. He is so consistent that it is still the norm of pundits to point to his shocker against Torres two seasons ago as evidence of his faults. They of course do not mention the fact that Liverpool’s number nine has been so comfortably dominated by Vidic since that he has turned his attention to petty vandalism of the Old Trafford penalty spot. Many eyebrows were raised when Ferguson handed Vida the armband – he had been regularly linked with moves to sunnier climes, he wasn’t as vocal or local as the other candidates. As usual our manager knew what he was doing – Vidic is a leader through example, the closest we have had in that respect to Eric Cantona and much like the King, long may he rein.
3 Darren Fletcher
– My mouth was dry. I felt nauseous. Could I bring myself to say it? I had to. Integrity is all I have. So I put it out there; ‘Darren Fletcher is out of form.’ My Dad’s response was swift and unforgiving ‘Don’t you believe a second of it. Wait until Monday.’ Sure enough when Monday arrived Fletcher turned in his standard performance in the bigger games; dominating Arsenal and making intelligent runs to expose Clichy’s vulnerability. The greatest asset of Fletcher is he provides the platform for others to play – Nani, Berbatov, Rooney, etc can be confident that Fletcher’s intelligent running, tactical awareness of space and decisive distribution will give them the best opportunity to make the most of their gifts. I often feel Fletcher is undervalued and I feel it comes down to his ability as an all rounder. He isn’t a pure goal scorer like Lampard, creator like Fabregas or destroyer like Mascherano. He carries out all of these roles to order and the highest praise I can offer him is that he is the closest player we have had to Keano since the great man’s departure.
Young Player of 2010
1 Rafael Da Silva
– Brazilian twin full backs are such an enticing cliché it is no surprise many pundits have jumped in with both feet. Rafael and Fabio, we are told, are great going forwards but a defensive liability. This may arguably still be the case for Fabio – Valencia at home being a case in point – but cannot be said of his swinging bachelor brother. Rafael has made the most of the opportunity to learn from Red Nev and as we approach the New Year has become arguably the most consistent full back in the country. For a long period Ferguson appeared not to trust him, time and again taking the easy option of reliable John O’Shea. Thankfully Rafael has convinced him to give him a run of games and he has not looked back. He has provided a much needed cutting edge on the right and even managed to raise his status to cult figure after taking a dislike to that twat from Argentina. The best thing about all this is he can only improve and I hope to see this recognised with the number 2 shirt for next season’s campaign.
2 Jonny Evans
– Now you would be forgiving for doubting this choice. It is no exaggeration to describe Evans’ autumn as being torrid and his credentials to be a Manchester United player are in question. I ask you to cast your mind back to the first six months of the year. Our team could no longer rely on then Captain Ferdinand to appear with any regularity. Fans lamented his absence and speculation surrounded his future ability to even play again. In amongst this furore a young Irishman took on the task of performing week in week out in the most scrutinised defence in the country. This period including several high profile games including a successful Wembley final. It could be argued that his inclusion high up the list is evidence of a stalled production line of youth but I would predict a certain Mexican and ironically named giant centre back to feature heavily over the coming months.
3 Danny Welbeck
– This admittedly might seem a very strange choice but so long as a player remains on our books I see no reason to discount their inclusion. This position was supposed to go to Kiko Macheda – the next big star – or even the Mexican sensation acquired in the summer. However, by far the most impressive young forward on our books has wearing a different shirt. The spell at Sunderland has been described as ‘win-win’ for United and Sunderland and it certainly looks that way. Welbeck is relishing the rapid development that regular action provides and his movement, touch and decision making has improved dramatically from his disheartening outings stranded out on the left when Ferguson bafflingly tinkered last term. It is tempting to demand the player who terrorised Chelsea be returned to us post-haste but given the benefits we have seen so far I would prefer him to remain in the North East before becoming a genuine option for us next season.
MUFC Most improved Player of 2010
1 Nani (already profiled)
2 Rafael Da Silva (already profiled)
3 Danny Welbeck (already profiled)
Best performance of 2010
1 3 – 1 vs. Arsenal (Away) Nani and Rooney both hit top form and the result was absolutely. devastating. This was the archetypal away performance with a swagger and reminiscent of Norwich away in 1993. Zonal Marking analysed this far better than I can Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United .
That we have proved unable of producing this standard consistently is frustrating – I certainly believe a display of this standard would have put Bayern to bed in the first leg.
2 4–0 vs. AC Milan (Home) Ok, so this wasn’t a Milan side to compare with the Sacchi era, but nonetheless it was a team packed with decorated stars who were made to look like fans who had won a competition to play at Old Trafford. United were untouchable, with Rooney in particular looking like £30m very well spent. Again Zonal Marking examines the key reasons Manchester United 4-0 Milan.The myth of Ferguson being tactically limited was again exposed as the deployment of Park centrally proved key. Perhaps most enjoyable of all was Gary Nev turning back the clock to dominate Ronaldinho.
3 7-1 vs. Blackburn (Home) Like any victory over a lesser side this was the expected 3 points, but the manner in which it came was joyous and in Berbatov’s third gave us the finest goal of 2010. You can revisit my initial thoughts here So What Did We Learn?
Best moment of 2010
1 Paul Scholes, injury time, Eastlands. No further description necessary.
2 Berbatov bicycle kick against the Scousers. It was a special joy to witness our most maligned player ice the cake as we defeated the worst Liverpool side since the days of the spice boys.
3 Beckham and the scarf. It might have been totally stage managed. It may have been a self-absorbed effort to hog the headlines after a game where his team had been annihilated. Yet In a period where it has been de rigueur for our heroes to ignore (Gary Neville) or even embrace (Alex Ferguson) the milking of our famous club; when Beckham put on the green and gold scarf for one glorious moment the anger of the faithful had a direct link with the players who had helped make this club great.
Biggest disappointment of 2010
1 The Glazers remain – As the fabled green and gold scarves drape around the shoulders of day trippers bedecked in Megastore garb and chanting for their beloved ‘Rooney’, it seems hard to believe that for a period in time the scarf was a symbol of revolution. ‘Knights’ were coming to save us and rid us of our cancerous American owners. For whatever reason it didn’t happen and if I’m honest I’m not convinced wealthy city bankers led by a man whose best friend is a flightless green bird is the answer to our prayers. Regardless of your level of financial nous, the fact that we enter 2011 still saddled with debt is a grim reality
2 The Days of October – in the season of goodwill I want to avoid spitting blood so I will withhold the diatribe. To summarise the reason I will never forgive Wayne Rooney is he made honest, loyal fans feel foolish; foolish for believing that in an age of money obsessed, mercenaries that he was somehow different. I won’t make that mistake again.
3 The mooted departure of Magnus Eikrem – make no mistake I am not for one moment suggesting that Eikrem is good enough and that his sale is a mistake. Better judges than I appear to have deemed him surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. What disappoints so much is he joins a worrying list of ‘prospects’ that have for whatever failed to develop at a club that our manager never tires of telling us is all about giving youth a chance. As we operate a transfer policy aimed at developing talent it is a major concern that we are failing to do just that.
Biggest hope for 2011
1 The Glazers are replaced by a more preferable option (not the Qatar royal family!)
2 A home grown player successfully integrates into the first team (Cleverley and Welbeck please rather than The DFG)
3 If we do have to say farewell to Edwin, Giggsy, Nev and Scholes we do so with Premier League winners medals hanging round their necks.
Best XI of 2010 (442)
GK: Edwin – no brainer this one, if anything he has been even more consistent Wolves aside.
LB: Paddy Evra – by no means his finest year but not exactly under pressure for this slot!
RB: Rafael – disappointing that his most significant moment will be seen as the red vs. Bayern rather than the schooling of Ribery. Made the position his own.
CB: Vida – lead by example, and what an example!
CB: Rio – Certainly not his finest year in a red shirt mainly due to injuries but Evans free fall this season means there is no competition.
RW: Tony Valencia – developed his one trick (push and run) and provided that rarest of commodities since Beckham; decent crosses.
LW: Nani – from infuriating clown to the star of the show in twelve months.
CM: Scholes – incredible to think he was written off during the blind era, moments like City away underline his case for being the finest player of the Ferguson era.
CM: Fletch – disgracefully pigeon holed as a scrapper when he consistently shows high technical ability, intelligence on the pitch and has added goals.
ST: Rooney – hard to argue with his inclusion as his early year form took us within reach of the League. That he still makes this team despite two penalties since May is a damning indictment of his rivals for the shirt.
ST: Berbatov – living off a handful of truly, epic performances. Liverpool and Blackburn alone merit his inclusion over promising rivals.
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