December Review: Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Fred the contenders for Player of the Month

Manchester United played nine matches in December which made it the busiest month of the season for the club. United started the month with a defeat, like they did the last two months. Paris Saint-Germain beat United 3-1 at Old Trafford, giving them a problem in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. Then came a 3-1 victory over West Ham United in the Premier League, which changed the clubs fortunes – slightly. United then played their final Champions League group stage match, losing 3-2 to RB Leipzig and exited the competition, falling into the UEFA Europa League, where they will face Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage.

United then played three back-to-back Premier League matches, drawing 0-0 against Manchester City at Old Trafford, then wining 3-2 against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane before beating Leeds United in a 6-2 thriller at Old Trafford, which saw them rise to third in the league. Next up for United was the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Everton, which they won 2-0. Moving on from the Everton victory, United then drew 2-2 with Leicester City in the Premier League away from home and will then move onto the final match of 2020 against Wolves at Old Trafford which resulted in another late victory for United.

December Statistics:

Nine matches played; five wins, two draws and two defeats. 14 Premier League points won, a place in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup and an exit from the UEFA Champions League and into the UEFA Europa League. 20 goals scored, 13 goals conceded – three clean sheets. After the last matches in the Premier League in 2020 had been played, United’s form this month saw them rise to second in the league and they currently sit just three points adrift of league leaders and reigning champions Liverpool. For those who still say that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the man to lead United forward, you don’t seem to understand. Stop being salty and making up excuses to side with your agenda – you all look pretty stupid right now.

2 December – Manchester United 1-3 Paris Saint-Germain – Champions League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 32′; Neymar 6′, 90+1′, Marquinhos 69′

Assists: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 32′; Rafinha 90+1′

United ended November on a high, just like they did in October. At stake in the first match of the month was their participation in the Champions League. Starting and ending the match at the top of their group, United would need to get another good result against PSG. At the Parc des Princes, United have won the two matches played there but at Old Trafford, they have lost. Neymar took the lead in the sixth minute of the match, which was unfortunate for United. Marcus Rashford found an equaliser in the 32nd minute but a Marquinhos goal put them behind again just before Fred was sent off. Neymar scored again in added time.

5 December – West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Tomas Soucek 38′; Paul Pogba 65′, Mason Greenwood 68′, Marcus Rashford 78′

Assists: Declan Rice 38′; Bruno Fernandes 65′, Alex Telles 68′, Juan Mata 78′

This match could be compared to the 3-2 victory over Southampton at the end of November. United were dire in the first half, looking like and amateur side. Tomas Soucek, assisted by Declan Rice opened the scoring in the 38th minute of the match – but had many chances earlier in the first half to get further ahead. At the start of the second half, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes were introduced into the match, which helped to inspire United to get a result. Paul Pogba struck in the 65th minute to equalise before Mason Greenwood scored a sublime goal to put United ahead. Rashford scored United’s third in their ninth win on the road.

8 December – RB Leipzig 3-2 Manchester United – Champions League

Goals: Angeliño 2′, Amadou Haidara 13′, Justin Kluivert 69′; Bruno Fernandes 80′ penalty, Harry Maguire 82′

Assists: Marcel Sabitzer 2′, Angeliño 13′, Christopher Nkunku 69′; Bruno Fernandes 82′

This was an important match for United – win or draw and continue in the Champions League this season, lose and fall into the Europa League. United started poorly with Angeliño opening the scoring in the second minute which was doubled 11 minutes later with Amadou Haidara scoring. United conceded a third in the first half, which was ruled out by VAR. United just did not seem to be able to get themselves back into the match and in the 69th minute, Justin Kluivert put the hosts 3-0 up. United won a penalty 11 minutes later, which Bruno Fernandes converted then Harry Maguire found the back of the net but it was not enough.

12 December – Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

This was the first Manchester derby of the season and a match that could have been so much different. Both City and United were not in the best of form ahead of this match with both clubs hovering around the middle of the Premier League table. It was a match of few chances and perhaps United should have capitalised from that but it was what it was. The points were shared between the two sides, which is perhaps the fair result with both clubs seeking to do more before the end of the month to climb back up towards the top of the Premier League table. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got to frustrate Pep Guardiola once again at Old Trafford.

17 December – Sheffield United 2-3 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: David McGoldrick 5′, 87′; Marcus Rashford 26′, 51′ Anthony Martial 33′

Assists: Oliver Burke 5′; Victor Lindelof 26′, Anthony Martial 51′

United, once again, found themselves 1-0 down early in the match after David McGoldrick pounced on a Harry Maguire back pass with Dean Henderson conceding his first goal against his former loan club. Marcus Rashford equalised in the 26th minute with Anthony Martial putting United ahead in the 33rd minute with a lot left to do in order win this match. Rashford struck once against for United in the 51st minute of the match, still with United trying to do more but McGoldrick, after a resurgent Blades tried to get back into the match, scored inn the 87th minute, giving United some trouble before the end of the match.

20 December – Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United – Premier League

Goals: Scott McTominay 2′, 3′, Bruno Fernandes 20′, 70′ penalty, Victor Lindelof 37′, Daniel James 66′; Liam Cooper 42′, Stuart Dallas 73′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 2′, Anthony Martial 3′, 37′, Scott McTominay 66′; Raphina 42′, 73′

This was United’s best match of the season so far. It took Scott McTominay just three minutes to put United 2-0 up, becoming the only player in the league to score a brace that early in a match. Leeds looked battered from those two goals. Bruno Fernandes put United 3-0 up in the 20th minute of the match before Victor Lindelof finished well with his first goal of the season in the 37th minute. Leeds scored through Liam Cooper just before the break. Daniel James (66′) and Fernandes (70th minute penalty) finished the scoring for United. Leeds got themselves another consolation in the 73rd minute through Stuart Dallas.

23 December – Everton 0-2 Manchester United – Carabao Cup

Goals: Edinson Cavani 88′, Anthony Martial 90+6′

Assists: Anthony Martial 88′, Marcus Rashford 90+6′

The second clash with Everton at Goodison Park this season was a good result for United, scoring in the final two minutes of the match and again in added time. It was a frustrating match though, especially in the first half with United having many chances to find a goal but not hitting the back of the net. Edinson Cavani was the one that broke the deadlock in the 88th minute of the match with a sublime finish to lead the game and despite an Everton onslaught, United once again found a second goal on the road through Anthony Martial to settle the game. United were drawn against Manchester City once again in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup.

26 December – Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Harvey Barnes 31′, Axel Tuanzebe o/g 85′; Marcus Rashford 23′, Bruno Fernandes 79′

Assists: James Maddison 31′; Bruno Fernandes 23′, Edinson Cavani 79′

This was an important match for United, another on the road with United’s best form in the league on the road this season. Marcus Rashford put the United ahead in the 23rd minute of the match, assisted by Bruno Fernandes, after missing a sitter in the opening minutes. Sadly, Harvey Barnes equalised eight minutes later with a superb finish. United took the lead again in the 79th minute of the match with Fernandes finding the back of the net once again, assisted by Edinson Cavani. Axel Tuanzebe scored an own goal five minutes form time, which saw the match end in a draw, which was not the best result, not the worst either.

29 December – Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers – Premier League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 90+3′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 90+3′

This was perhaps the most frustrating match of the month, even thinking about the 3-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and the 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig which saw United crash out of the Champions League. Over the last few years, Wolverhampton Wanderers have been a frustrating team to beat based upon the way they play with their manager Nuno Espírito Santo being touted as a tactical genius. His team parked the bus and played a very boring brand of football – United supporters should know about that. United had a few chances but just did not get ahead, until the last few minutes of added time with saw Marcus Rashford score the winner.

Bruno Fernandes – nine appearances (eight starts), 736 minutes, four goals, four assists.

What else can be said about Bruno Fernandes? In 2020 he had the most goal involvements in the Premier League, which was carried across the 2019/20 and the 2020/21 season, being involved in 32 goals for his club. Since signing for United, he’s made 45 appearances, scored 26 goals and 17 assists – a total goal involvement of 43 goals, meaning he averages a goal every 0.96 matches, which is a great stat. In December, Fernandes was the best player in my opinion making nine appearances, starting seven times, playing 736 minutes and scoring four goals and four assists – a goal/assist every 92 minutes.

Marcus Rashford – nine appearances (seven starts), 663 minutes, five goals, one assist.

Marcus Rashford has suffered frustration during the month of December and played in all nine of the figures, starting seven time. Rashford played 663 minutes throughout the month, scoring five goals and one assist. He was criticised by some during the month for many misses but football is not always a hit, there are misses too. Rashford persevered against Wolves and found the winner in the third minute of added time which helped lump more pressure on Liverpool, who are now just three points ahead of United at the top of the league. I am sure Rashford is getting ready for the test that 2021 will bring both him and Manchester United.

Fred – four appearances (four starts), 360 minutes, Solskjaer’s go-to midfield player.

The Brazilian has turned his career around at United after struggling under the management of Jose Mourinho and seemingly flourishing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For months now Fred has been amongst the plaudits based on what he has been offered his club on the pitch. In December, Fred played four of the nine matches, starting all four and playing 360 minutes of football. He did not score or assist any goals but has become Solskjaer’s go-to player in midfield for United, at least in the big matches. He started the month seeing red against Paris Saint-Germain, ending the month with some good performances.

Notable Mentions: David De Gea, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.

Seven other players are notable mentions throughout the month of December 2020 with David De Gea making six appearances, playing 540 minutes of football and keeping two clean sheets and making some good saves to keep United in some matches. Next comes the defensive duo of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. The Swedish international made seven appearances, playing 594 minutes of football, keeping one clean sheet and scoring a goal and an assist. Maguire made nine appearances, playing 810 minutes of football, the only player to play every single minute for United, keeping three clean sheets and scoring one goal.

Scott McTominay deserves some of the plaudits with eight appearances, starting six of them, playing 542 minutes of football and scoring two goals and one assist – also becoming the first player in the Premier League to score a brace inside the first three minutes of a match. Paul Pogba made eight appearances, playing 531 minutes of football scoring one goal but more will be expected from him going forward. Edinson Cavani made six appearances, playing 338 minutes of football scoring a goal and an assist. Lastly, Anthony Martial ,Ade eight appearances, playing 461 minutes of football, scoring two goals and four assists.

Who is your Player of the Month for December 2020?

A look at what lies ahead in January…

United could potentially play nine times in January providing they beat Watford (H) in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, earning a fourth round place in the competition. United will play five matches in the Premier League; Aston Villa (H), Burnley (A), Liverpool (A), Fulham (A), Sheffield United (H) and Arsenal (H) also facing Manchester City (H) in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. It is certain to be another busy month with United playing on average every four days throughout the month (providing they reach the fourth round of the FA Cup). Here are the fixtures that will be played in January…

1 January – Aston Villa, Old Trafford – Premier League

6 January – Manchester City, Old Trafford – Carabao Cup

9 January – Watford, Old Trafford – Emirates FA Cup

12 January – Burnley, Turf Moor – Premier League

17 January – Liverpool, Anfield – Premier League

20 January – Fulham, Craven Cottage – Premier League

23/24 January – Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup

27 January – Sheffield United, Old Trafford – Premier League

30 January – Arsenal, Old Trafford – Premier League

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.