Last season saw our Ecuadorian full-back destroyer of the time Antonio Valencia scoop up all the major accolades at our end of season party. His clean sweeping of the awards was thoroughly deserved as he tore apart left-back after left-back in what was a stunning period of form. The reward for his efforts was the highly-coveted and iconic number 7 shirt, previously adorned by legends Best, Beckham and Ronaldo, a shirt etched in history and magnitude.
Unfortunately, Valencia’s stock has been rapidly shot after a lack-lustre campaign. It is fair to say he will not be at the top of fans’ shortlist for this year’s prize.
So who should be?
There have been plenty of shining lights this season, but push come to shove the following quintet have been the major reasons behind us claiming back what is ours. They have been the driving force behind our title charge and the stand-out performers in what has been another vintage season under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson.
David de Gea
After a debut season containing moments to savour and abject lows, the Spaniard really has kicked on this season. There was no-one questioning his shot-stopping ability nor his potential to develop, the question marks surrounded his capability to withstand the more demanding physicalities of the Premier League. The making of De Gea was at Upton Park recently- despite being on the receiving end of a virtual assault from Andy Carroll, he took the hits and held his own. What a transformation from that skinny, fraught kid who first emerged on the English game. This can only be exemplified by standing up to Kevin Nolan and shoving him away, what a sight that was! He has kept us in games this season which we’d have otherwise lost, he has produced heroics at times. He has beefed up and not lost any of the agility or shot-stopping that is his party-piece. He has had a fantastic season and that first title will do wonders for his confidence. He could go on to become the world’s best.
Rafael Da Silva
Long gone are the days of watching this petulent little Brazilian whipper-snapper who could barely defend. Rafael is no longer the teenager who would have a rush of blood to the head and cost us a game. He has shown remarkable signs of maturity and is still the menacing, raiding full-back we all love, he even pops up with the odd goal here and there- the screamers at Anfield and Loftus Road will live long in the memory. The biggest compliment we can pay Rafael is that the quandry of who will become our permanent right-back is no longer a grave issue. Rafael has made that slot his own this campaign. If Gary Neville believes that we have found his successor and that he can even surpass him as one of our greats, we must sit up and take note. We have a real gem on our hands and for a player who is still at a tender age to have only played 3 or 4 bad games all season is testament to his progression.
People have always been keen to get on Ferdinand’s case and say that he is over the hill and his best days are behind him, but Ferdinand has scoffed at those remarks and produced some of the best football he’s played at United. He has complete control over his body and as a result he is virtually injury free now as he is superbly managed. He has always been classy and composed but what maybe goes unnoticed is his leadership qualities. Although he doesn’t wear the armband, his presence at the back as helped nurture and develop the younger heads of Rafael, Smalling, Jones and Evans. He has adapted his game to no longer rely on the blistering pace he used to possess, he cannot afford to do that now. He has become a savvy customer as well as being calmness personnified. He has been rewarded with a testamonial and a new 1 year extension is on the cards.
People have underestimated this guy’s quality for so long, it’s staggering that he is only just getting the praise he merits at 31 years old. He can boast the best passing completion in the Premier League, and the most forward passes. He has been the constant in our midfield and the classy link between defence and midfield and midfield and attack. Rarely do we see him panic in tight areas or under pressure, he has complete control over the engine room and his playmaking qualities have been on show on numerous occasions this season. It really is hard to believe it’s not Scholes.
Robin van Persie
What more is there to say that has not already been mentioned about the Dutchman? He has been the principle difference between United and the rest this season. We all knew Van Persie was a class individual when he wore Arsenal’s colours but did we expect him to have such a telling effect? Did we realise he was this good? His delivery from set-pieces has allowed us to become more threatening from dead ball situations, his touch is pure magic and his finishing is ruthless and deadly. He is the complete striker and he is ours. He executed arguably the telling blow in the title race with that stoppage time free-kick winner at the Etihad, that in itself was worth the transfer fee alone.
So there you have it, there are surely the main contenders for the Sir Matt Busby player of the year award. Who should get the award in your eyes?