Manchester United played their final match of the season at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening against Steve Bruce’s Hull City. This was the first time in many years that United had effectively nothing to fight for in the run in, with even a place in the UEFA Europa League near enough out of reach if Tottenham Hotspur beat Aston Villa on Sunday, which will leave United only playing in domestic tournaments next season, for the first time in nearly 19 years.
Rumours were rife on Tuesday afternoon that Ryan Giggs would name a few youth players in the starting eleven for the match, which would give the players a chance to blood into the first team ahead of next season. The rumours were right with Giggs handing full debuts to Welsh winger Tom Lawrence and English striker James Wilson. Adnan Januzaj also returned to the starting eleven, with the three players pivotal in United’s 3-1 victory over Steve Bruce’s side.
Blooding in youth from the Academy
United have history in blooding in players from their academy. Adnan Januzaj was given his chance at the start of the season, a chance he has taken and effectively proven himself as a first team player at just 18-years-old. The Belgian-born winger, now 19, has scored three times this season and at times been one of the only players that deserve to be in the squad next season. It was reported today that Januzaj turned down oil rich Paris St Germain to remain at Old Trafford, which suggests the player see football as a priority, rather than money. I am sure the next United manager will have Januzaj in his squad next season as one of his main core players, which is rightfully deserved. The Belgian-born player has also chosen his birth country as his international team, with a spot in the preliminary FIFA World Cup squad made available for him to prove himself to the national coach in order to make the flight to Brazil in June.
Ryan Giggs handed full debuts to James Wilson and Tom Lawrence, both were pivotal players in the victory over former player Steve Bruce’s side. Wilson scored a brace on his debut, a feat only achieved by three other United academy talents; Sir Bobby Charlton, Shay Brennan and Paul Scholes. All three players went on to achieve so much with United, so Wilson is in good company to go ahead and do the same in the future. The England U19 striker, who was today called up by Noel Blake, took the lead for United in the 31st minute and completed his brace on the 61st minute, which was a memorable night for the striker who has scored for the U18, U19 and U21 sides already this season, which is a great achievement for the 18-year-old. Wilson will most likely be available for Warren Joyce’s U21 side for the Barclays U21 Premier League final at Old Trafford in a weeks time, which means he may not be involved for this weekend trip to Southampton, but with three days rest between matches, it wouldn’t harm him to be available, would it?
Tom Lawrence, who recently returned from relegated Yeovil Town, spent the majority of this season out on loan. The first half of the season was spent with the also relegated Sky Bet League One side Carlisle United, were he scored three goals, one of which was a contender for the Goal of the Season, in my mind anyway. It was deemed that Lawrence was too good for League One and was recalled. The Welsh winger was then loaned to Yeovil Town, who had a place in the Sky Bet Championship, with the player continuing to develop himself, scoring two goals and proving himself to be a threat to the opposition team. Lawrence brought his experience from this season to Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, proving what a talent he way. The emotional substitution with him replacing fellow Welsh winger Ryan Giggs made you wonder if the latter was ready to call time on his playing career and handing over the reigns to Lawrence, who could excel himself like Giggs did back in 1991.
Farewell to Nemanja Vidic
Tuesday’s victory over Hull City was also Nemanja Vidic’s final match at Old Trafford. He was a substitute, but needed to be utilised within 22 minutes after Phil Jones injured his shoulder, an injury which could keep him out of England’s squad for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer. Vidic helped his side to victory and gave an emotional speech at full time where he thanked the supporters for his time at the club, where he was made to feel welcome with his own chant erupting from the Stretford End. Nemanja signed for Inter Milan in January, where will face United in this summers pre-season tour in the United States, which will be another emotional occasion for the Serbian. United have been lacklustre this season, which must be a regret for Vidic as it is always nice to bow out with another winners medal, but this season it was not to be.
This summer there will be many changes at United. A new manager is only a matter of months away from assuming his post, bringing in new players to rejuvenate the squad, whether they be from other clubs or from the academy, it is something that is long overdue as United have been pretty stagnant for the last few years, with the midfield being the place where major investment was needed. United have been linked to many top players this summer, with former manager David Moyes promising big things in the summer before his sacking a few weeks ago, now it is an exciting time, but will we be left feeling short-changed again like last summer, where the only substantial signing was Marouane Fellaini, who has so far flopped at his new club.
The future, it can’t get any worse, can it?
United, at this very moment look to end this season in seventh place, without European football next season, apart from a visit to Swansea City that is. It will be a bitter pill to swallow watching the UEFA Champions League matches without United being involved, but that is the reality and we need to suck it up and get through it. Many records (the wrong ones) have been broken this season, but United have still made the headlines, albeit for the wrong reasons and the ABU’s have had their laughs at the clubs demise after the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson was ended last season. The thing is, none of the ABU’s expect United to be back, and it will be good to see those smug smiles wiped off their faces when United eventually return, whether it be next season, the season after that or in ten years time, United will be back.
This season United supporters have been left to watch Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal contend for the title they secured a year ago and finished eleven points clear of their local rivals. A year is a long time in football, and this past year has seemed a lot longer at times. Still United reached the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, but were beaten by Sunderland on penalties. They also reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League, losing to Bayern Munich, who were then knocked out of the competition at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, which means the German giants will not break records by retaining the UEFA Champions League. United have lost 12 matches this season, many of which were at Old Trafford, with the clubs away form being the best in a long time, so in all it has been a very strange season, especially for the supporters that have only known one man, Sir Alex Ferguson to lead their beloved club.
Next season promises to be a good one with Robin van Persie promising United will be back, which is good to see. The imminent arrival of Louis van Gaal is exciting, as is the ever-growing list of players United are being linked with.
By Paul Bienkowski
Like our page on Facebook
Come and discuss this article in our Forum