Premier League 2 football came to an end for the season and Manchester United ended in eighth place. As the league position suggests, it was a season of ups and downs, leaving fans a bit disappointed and wondering how things would turn out differently if it were not for the injuries.
Definitely, not leaving behind the awkward refereeing moments, because apparently grabbing someone by the hair is not red card worthy. Yes, it happened. Despite the negativity of a few moments, it is quite important that the players had the chance to express themselves throughout the season.
This season, just like the previous one, the academy awards have been left at the hands of the respective managers, as coach Neil Wood will be the one to select the winner of the Denzil Haroun trophy. Usually, the club would leave it in the fans’ hands as they would vote for three candidates. Even though this is the second year in a row we will not be able to do this, I am glad this will not be the case this season as well. During fan voting, there is a sign of favouritism for the most popular name and not the actual best player of the season. Selection process has changed several times, probably this the best option.
Here are my top three nominees for the Denzil Haroun trophy, Manchester United’s U23’s Player of the Season:
Anthony Elanga – 20 appearances, 11 goals and 4 assists: We probably would have been discussing other statistics had not been for the injury Elanga picked in the middle of the season. Suffering a collarbone injury, only meant his involvement with the first team would be delayed until later in the season. The youngster has been one of the Reserves’ key players and surely watching him down the left flank was a pleasure.
His solo efforts, the movement into the box are second to none in the team. His absence was noted a lot, and the player marked his return with an immediate goal. Elanga moves the ball quick and runs well from behind. His goal against Accrington Stanley was amazing as he picked the ball in the opposition’s half, a run down the left followed with Elanga moving past three – four players unbothered.
Shola Shoretire – 23 appearances, 10 goals and 5 assists: People discuss about his age and sometimes are even surprised of the way he plays. The talented youngster still eligible to play for the U18’s has been moved left and centre when Elanga was injured. Easily adaptable, Shola has quite an eye for the pass and some of his low crosses have been incredible.
His hat trick against Blackburn U23’s came into the right time as the first team manager was watching. In the game against Arsenal, Shola was moving well in midfield and shifting in attack posing a great threat to the young Gunners. He was the brain of every movement in attack and his shift was quite easy with the ball transitioning well at Hugill.
Hannibal Mejbri – 24 appearances, 5 goals and 10 assists: While I have been a critic of how Mejbri has performed in particular games this season, his talent is undeniable. He is quite easy – going and the opposition tries to make use of these situations. The game against Tottenham comes in mind where he was grabbed by his hair and neck, still this was not a red.
He was once again provoked in the final game of the season and ended up being sent off. His injury was because these players were constantly being encouraged to have a go at him and still not get punished. Mejbri’s movement around the box is always organized, never chaotic. It is his constant work off the ball, the passes, and the brilliant shots, what makes the player so special. He may be a bit adventurous, but he is only improving. He is only picked at because this is the only way the opposition has found out to stop him from scoring and terrify defences.
Special mentions: Joe Hugill, Will Fish, Ethan Galbraith, and Alvaro Fernandez; These four names could not miss out the special mentions. Joe Hugill was initially signed and played for the U18’s until he was moved to the Reserves’ team and help with the goals. A brilliant number 9, who has scored 10 goals, also adds the much-needed composure in the attack. His overall game, especially the game reading has helped the team several times this season. On the other hand, the Reserves’ captain, Will Fish has improved a lot compared to the previous season, as he has been seen calmer, better at blocks and has been commanding the box better.
Our new left – back, playing both with the U18’s and U23’s, has been exceptional when going forward, adding a few assists to his name. Also, Alvaro worked on his defensive game, improving and being an important asset to the team. Maybe Ethan Galbraith should have left on loan in January, but Ole needed him closer to the first team. The player has been pivotal when experience was required, with the Northern Ireland international dropping at the heart of the defence for the sake of the team. His vision, passing range and set – up play awarded him a call up in the Europa League team. Surely, the injury he picked may have left him short of another first team call up, but hopefully he recovers and joins them for the pre-season or who knows, even earlier.
In my personal opinion, given his performances and influence on the game, Anthony Elanga might be a worthy winner, but I believe that any of three top nominees deserve the award.