The Hard Tackle provides a throwback to five of the top highlights for Manchester United in 2016 and the year that was.
Manchester United have been slowly regaining their lost charm, something which was found in abundance during the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson. And, as the Red Devils ended the calendar year on a positive note, with an unbeaten December, The Hard Tackle takes a look at five of the best highlights of the year for the club and their fans.
The Mercurial Rise of Marcus Rashford
No other event seems as momentous as the rise of Marcus Rashford. From being the captain of United’s side in the UEFA Youth League in November 2015 to scoring a brace on his club debut in the Europa League, facilitating the club’s qualification to the next phase was something no-one had predicted.
If scoring a brace on his Europa League debut wasn’t enough, the academy ace topped it off with a brace on his league debut against Arsenal in what turned out be another match-winning contribution.
Brought into the setup out of need by Louis Van Gaal, who did not have much attacking options fit and available to him, the player grabbed the opportunity with both hands as he set the Premier League ablaze with his ability and calmness while leading the attack of one of the most iconic clubs in footballing history.
Now under Mourinho, the player has continued to impress, providing match-winning contributions on several occasions. In Rashford, Manchester United have their next gem and a player who can boss the Premier League for the next decade and more.
The Long-Elusive FA Cup Glory
Manchester United had been devoid of a major trophy since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. A club that had become accustomed to 1 or more trophies each season under the legendary Scot had now spent the last two seasons without a major triumph.
But before Louis Van Gaal departed, he got Manchester United to taste the long-elusive FA Cup trophy wherein the club defeated Crystal Palace in the final, thanks to a brilliant Jesse Lingard goal.
Several of the squad stalwarts had yet to taste the glory of FA Cup, with United not winning the competition for more than a decade. But, they finally got their hands on the trophy.
The trophy triumph was a rare positive in an otherwise disappointing and underwhelming Louis Van Gaal reign. But the Dutchman shall always be remembered in high spirits by United fans, for bringing them the FA Cup and the rise of Marcus Rashford.
Get in Jose Mourinho!
Many speculated that the Portuguese should have been the man to take the baton over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the first place but Manchester United fans celebrated endlessly when Mourinho was announced as the new manager of the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson was brilliant but he had an arrogance with the way he went about his things and he commanded respect from even the biggest players. The Scot took very bold decisions, sometimes largely unpopular ones, but it all paid dividends in the end.
And while David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal are great in their own ways, they are nowhere near the kind of character of Sir Alex Ferguson. In Mourinho though, one can easily see a hint of similarity with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Who knows, the Portuguese might just create the next great United dynasty, something all United fans are hopeful of.
The Paul Pogba Homecoming
The prodigal son returned and that too in a world-record transfer. Manchester United took a large hit in letting the player go for peanuts in his youth and buy him back for such a hefty amount. But, as has been said by many known personalities since, Pogba and Manchester United was just meant to be.
United have been in need of a midfielder who can boss the pitch as the greats like Paul Scholes had done in the past for the club. And, in Pogba, United seemed to have received the perfect mix of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane with a welcome addition of flair.
The French superstar absolutely dominated the Serie A and decimated the opposition with his wide range of skills. And now, he seems intent on doing the same at the club where he first gained reputation as a superstar-in-the making.
2016 also saw the arrival of Zlatan to the Premier League. The Swede has been prolific throughout his career and has proven his mettle in almost every top European league in his career.
As a player who is entering the twilight of his career at the age of 35, he would not think of venturing into the Premier League, that too for the first time in his career. But Zlatan is no ordinary player.
And he has proven since his arrival at Old Trafford that age is just a number and he indeed is a god. While one can argue that Jermain Defoe is 34 and still up and kicking, a-la Zlatan, Defoe has spent almost the entirety of his career in the Premier League and is fully aware of what is needed to be done.
But Zlatan, in his first season in England, has eclipsed all other strikers barring Diego Costa in terms of their goals tally in the present Premier League campaign.
The arrival of the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is sure to usher in a new era of success, immediate or eventual.