Premature exit from the Champions League would have hurt but the circumstances in which they lost the league last season, made reclaiming the Premier League the primary target for Manchester United this season. They did so comfortably thanks mainly to the contribution of two players.
David De Gea – 8/10
An impressive season between the sticks for the young Spaniard and boy, did he need it! After a tough start to his United career, this had all the making of a make or break season for the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper. In the opening months of the campaign his place in the starting lineup was far from assured with Sir Alex opting to rotate his keepers, but a string of fine performances ensured that he was the undisputed no.1 come the business end of the season. His slight frame makes him susceptible to dealing with crosses under pressure but his decision has improved with experience. Shot-stopping remains his forte and he added a number of super saves through the course of the season to his burgeoning catalogue. Especially, the one off Fabio Coentrao in Madrid will stick long in the memory.
Anders Lindegaard – 4/10
While the stock of De Gea has risen considerably this season, Lindegaard’s has headed south. In contention for the no.1 spot in August, he presently finds himself firmly established as the younger Spaniard’s understudy. The game at Reading in December, when he conceded 3 and looked unconvincing throughout, was the straw which broke the camel’s back and since then chances to start have been few and far between. To make things worse, he ended the season on a disastrous note by conceding five goals at West Brom.
Rafael – 7/10
The young fullback from Brazil will have more reasons than most to look back fondly on the season, in which he has built on his reputation as a dependable right-back and in the process managed to score couple of stunners as well. His biggest test undoubtedly came against Madrid when he had to tackle Cristiano Ronaldo and co. He struggled to cope in the first half but put in a composed and mature display after the interval while playing on a yellow card. The only blemish on his report card was the needless red card he picked up against Chelsea late on in the season for lashing out at David Luiz. It is such moments of madness that he needs to eradicate from his game if he wants to become one of the premier fullbacks in the world.
Rio Ferdinand – 7/10
With 34 appearances under his belt, the veteran centre-back will be quietly pleased with his contributions this season. The previously troubled back seems to be holding up nicely and a number of times this season, Ferdinand rolled back the years with commanding displays at the heart of United’s defense.
Nemanja Vidic – 5/10
For the second season running, knee injury forced the United skipper to miss a substantial chunk of the campaign. Even after he returned to action in the new year, lack of fitness restricted him from appearing in too many back to back games. While he still remains one of the best defenders around, he no longer is the dominant physical specimen that he used to be.
Jonny Evans – 7/10
The Ulsterman has definitely emerged from Rio and Vida’s shadow and firmly established himself as a member of the starting eleven. This season he added a new bow to his armor by scoring goals at the other end of the pitch. He was on top of his game for almost the entire season and looks set to feature as the cornerstone of United defense for years to come.
Chris Smalling – 4/10
A terribly frustrating season for the young English centre-back as he always seemed to pick up injuries at the wrong time. Because of limited game time, it is perhaps understandable that in the matches that he did play, he looked distinctly shaky at times.
Phil Jones – 6/10
A mixed bag season for the immensely talented youngster. Like Smalling, he too picked up few too many injuries to feature as often as he would have wanted to. His versatility makes him a real asset to the squad as he can seamlessly slot in at centre back, right back or midfield. His ability to nullify the opponent’s biggest threat came to the fore multiple times this season as he man-marked the likes of Gareth Bale, Marouane Fellaini and Cristiano Ronaldo with varying degrees of success.
Patrice Evra – 7/10
With question marks being raised about his place in the team at the start of the season, Evra has responded to his critics by enjoying his best season in three years. Defensively he was formidable and he chipped in with some vital goals as well. A staggering 46 appearances for club and country is testament to the tremendous fitness and stamina of the 32 year old.
Alexander Buttner – 5/10
Bought as an understudy to Evra, the Dutchman’s greatest contribution was to spark the Frenchman back into form. He scored on his debut against Wigan but has failed to convince as a viable replacement at the left back position.
Michael Carrick – 9/10
Arguably United’s player of the season – an accolade that was bestowed upon him by his club colleagues – Michael Carrick was imperious all throughout the season. He rarely put a foot wrong, or made a stray pass, all season long in his role as the orchestrator of the team’s play this season. Among the numerous breathtaking passes he sprayed from midfield this season, the one that stands out the most was his over the top ball for Javier Hernandez to head in against Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Tom Cleverley – 6/10
While Cleverley did alright this season, it is perhaps fair to say bigger things were expected of him. The fact that he was not able to nail down a regular starting spot in United lineup – even though he has met success in that regard with England – would be a cause for disappointment for him.
Anderson – 5/10
It was the same old story for the Brazilian this season as he played well in patches but was sidelined with injuries far too often. He was outstanding in the Capital One Cup tie against Chelsea and seemed to build up a good head of form before picking up a knock at Reading shortly afterwards. After he returned, he struggled to find form and was restricted to a bit part role in the closing stages of the season.
Paul Scholes – 5/10
This perhaps was one season too many for Scholes as the veteran maestro struggled to influence games in his limited appearances this campaign. A knee injury ruled him out from virtually the entire second half of the campaign but he did recover in time to take his final bow in the last two games of the season.
Ryan Giggs – 6/10
He just keeps going on and on, doesn’t he? In his 22nd full season in the senior team, Giggs was employed selectively by Sir Alex but whenever on the pitch, he always seemed to make meaningful impact. While he featured mostly in the central midfield, his best game of the campaign was the FA Cup replay against West Ham when he reprised his favoured left wing role to devastating effect.
Antonio Valencia – 5/10
This was a distinctly average season for the Ecuadorian winger who in spite of being fit for almost the entire campaign rarely troubled opposition fullbacks on a consistent basis. His defensive discipline came handy – especially in the big games – but offensively he did not pose enough of a threat to be termed as a success this season.
Nani – 5/10
There was a time during first half of the season when it looked increasingly likely that Nani may not last beyond the January transfer window at Old Trafford. His stock fell at an alarming rate in those early months as Sir Alex even went to the extreme length of admonishing him for his part in the defeat to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. However, after remaining with the club in January, Nani did show signs of improvement and was arguably United’s best offensive player against Real Madrid at Old Trafford until a moment of incomprehensible madness from the Turkish referee on the night cut short Nani’s night and robbed him of what might have been a match-winning role in the club’s biggest game of the season.
Ashley Young – 4/10
In a season in which most of the wide players in the team struggled to make an impact, Young was no different. In what was a stop-start season for the English winger, he failed to score a single goal for the club and his form was generally underwhelming.
Shinji Kagawa – 6/10
After two brilliant seasons with his previous club Borussia Dortmund, this was a bit of a step back for the Japanese playmaker. He took his time adapting to play in a new league alongside new teammates. He was rarely afforded the chance to play in the hole behind a central striker – the role in which he excelled at Borussia and was instead deployed in wider positions. His hattrick against Norwich though underlined his class and promised the fans of much brighter things in the seasons to come.
Danny Welbeck – 7/10
If a striker is judged only by the weight of goals scored, then Welbeck would fare miserably in his end of term report card. A measly return of 2 goals in 41 games does not speak too highly of his finishing abilities, but then Welbeck’s game is not about scoring goals only. His pace, stamina and energy was put to good effect by Sir Alex who often used Welbeck in roles aimed to serve definite tactical purposes.
Wayne Rooney – 6/10
A sixteen goal season may be more than acceptable to a number of strikers across the globe but that was surely never going to be the case with a certain Wayne Rooney. The man who criticized the club a couple of seasons back for its inability to rope in quality players found himself marginalized once the club proved himself wrong. No longer the talisman of the team after the arrival of Robin van Persie, Rooney found himself at crossroads of his United career. His exclusion from the starting eleven in the return leg against Real was a bitter blow to his ego as the message that Rooney is no longer indispensible to United’s cause reverberated across the world of football. His form has been patchy but in his defense, it may have had to do with him being played out of position a number of times this season to make room for van Persie.
Javier Hernandez – 6/10
Introduction of van Persie may have curtailed his involvement in the team, but it was refreshing to see the Mexican striker never moaning about it and instead do what he does best whenever he got a chance to play – score goals. There are probably few better impact substitutes than him in the league as his pace and directness are a real handful for tiring defenders.
Robin van Persie – 9/10
The transfer did pay off in the end. It may look like a bargain in hindsight but when United forked out £24 million on a 29 year old with a questionable fitness record entering the last year of his contract, eyebrows were raised in many quarters. But van Persie went on to repay that outlay and more with a series of scintillating displays which ultimately enabled United to clinch the league in a canter. Carrick may have been more consistent, but it was the Dutchman who grabbed the headlines with his goal-scoring exploits. He was a bit of a letdown in Champions League this season – especially in the games against Real – but the United fans will be more than willing to let that pass. They would instead look back on his injury time winner at Etihad Stadium in the Manchester derby and his sumptuous volley against Aston Villa on the night United sealed the league title.