The PFA handed out its player and team awards last night, with the Football Writers due to do the same in around a week’s time. Wayne Rooney picked up the PFA gong with four United players in the team award. All well and good but nothing compares to the prestigeand sheer boast-about-ability of the Seventh Annual United Rant Awards.*
Player of the Season
With 34-goals in all competitions former Evertonian Wayne Rooney has held together United’s season after the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez last summer. Deployed predominantly as the lone-striker, Rooney has successfully adapted his game to the new role, even adding 10 headed strikes into the mix. Rightly voted PFA Player of the Year, Rooney will also make the shortlist for the European and World Player of the Year Awards if England performs well during the World Cup in South Africa this summer.
Runner-up – Patrice Evra
Third place – Darren Fletcher
In truth United’s younger players in the first team squad have largely disappointed or suffered from injury this campaign. With 27 appearances, Jonny Evans stands alone as a beacon of consistency in an otherwise underwhelming season for Anderson, Danny Welbeck, Fábio and Rafael da Silva, Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda. Evans has benefited from injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, although the Irishman suffered with ankle trouble for long-periods himself. Here’s to greater progression from United’s younger stars in 2010/11.
Sir Alex Ferguson will have a range of under 20-year-old players to choose from in next season’s Carling Cup campaign but Oliver Norwood has stood head and shoulders above the rest for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve league winners. The creative midfielder drew praise from the manager after leading the second string to the FA Premier Reserve League North championship last week. Norwood certainly looks ‘most likely’ in Solskjaer’s group to make the next step up.
For the moment as much as the goal, Rant’s award goes to wonderful Rooney breakaway strike against Arsenal at the Emirates in January. Reminiscent of Ronaldo’s goal in the Champions League semi-final last season, Rooney finished Nani’s lightening-quick end-to-end break to seal a fabulous win. It took 9.2 seconds from Park Ji-Sung’s interception inside the United penalty area to Rooney’s finish past Manuel Almunia.
Ferguson must seriously consider the future of each goalkeeper in his first team squad following a season of poor form and injury but Edwin van der Sar’s stunning one-handed save at Bolton Wanderers wins the Rant award this year. The veteran Dutch stopper tipped Fabrice Muamba’s right-footed drive away to preserve United’s first half lead at the Reebok Stadium in March. “It was a match-winning effort,” said Ferguson of the save.
With very little competition in this category Antonio Valencia walks away with the prize. That shouldn’t belittle the Ecuadorian’s contribution and growing confidence in the United side this season. Charged with playing in Ronaldo’s shadow, the former Wigan Athletic winger has scored give Premier League goals and contributed nine assists during an excellent first season at the club.