Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Forwards


Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, concluding with the forwards.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The former Swedish international signed for United on a free last summer on the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. In the weeks after his signing, United and other supporters were suggesting he was too old to make an impact in the Premier League, something which would come to haunt them from his very first match, despite it being in the FA Community Shield. Zlatan scored a total of 28 goals for United last season and it could have been more, the chances were being created for the veteran striker. United have some over-reliance on Zlatan, which suggested there were other problems which needed to be sorted, which seems to be why Antoine Griezmann was a target earlier in the summer before Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban was kept in place following an appeal with the Court of Arbitration of Sport. Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti also seem to be targets for United with one or both likely to arrive at the Theatre of Dreams this summer. Zlatan suffered a season-ending knee injury against Anderlecht at Old Trafford in April, ending his season, could have ended his career. He went under the knife in the weeks following and is now recovering from his injury. United released Zlatan at the end of the season, not choosing to extend his contract as it is likely he will not play for much first half of the season if he returns to action in 2017. He will be training with United in the meantime after being offered the clubs services, which he seems to have accepted. He could play a part on the sidelines for United, maintaining his winning mentality within the squad, which he did to an extent during the past season. Zlatan added three more trophies to his impressive career haul, which ended his United career in high spirits.

Appearances: Premier League: 28, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 45

Goals: Premier League: 17, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 5, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 28

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 8, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney had a good season if you count beating Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for the club. That is his season highlight. The guy, all due respect in mind, is past it. He offers nothing in an attacking basis, seemingly losing his goalscoring instinct. Once he would have shot from outside of the box, now he passes to the left or the right, losing that eye for a long-range goal. Rooney should have left United in 2010 when he handed in that transfer request, but the club were still somewhat reliant on the player who became the captain for both club and his country, which him being scrapped by England partly due to his poor form on the pitch. Rooney still has his uses, but as an attacking player who was once a figure you thought of when the words Manchester United were mentioned, now he symbolises frustration and a player trying to play in the top flight, despite no longer being all that good. I respect Wayne Rooney for his achievements at Manchester United, winning all major trophies, well apart from the UEFA Super Cup, but in terms of dragging out his career, he should really think about moving on. Gone are the days where he is worth 100% of his weekly wage.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 39

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 9, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2/5

Anthony Martial

The Frenchman did not have the best second season at Manchester United. Under Louis van Gaal he was a player who excited, a bit like Adnan Januzaj did during his first season under David Moyes. Anthony Martial was a ‘panic buy’ and ‘waste of money’, a player who would not fit into the Premier League, they said. What did Martial do? He proved his critics wrong. Martial is a class act, but at times under Jose Mourinho, he was not fulfilling his potential at United. Martial was criticised by the manager, left out of matches, but given chances whereby he never actually put the effort in. His year has not been a good one though with plenty of fallout from his personal life, which should not really be affecting his game, but he is only human. Next season should be a better one for Martial. It has already been confirmed by the player’s agent that he will still be at the Old Trafford club, which is a good thing. He should not be written off after just two seasons. He is still a player very much developing in the game.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 42

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Marcus Rashford

The teenager has gone from strength to strength in his first full season at Manchester United. Rising through the ranks last season saw him being propelled into the big time. This season would be a big one for him, playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player who would teach him a lot, which was the case. Marcus Rashford spent much of the season being played on the wing, something which the player said he wanted to do in order to better himself and become that forward who could play anywhere on the pitch. He’s not a winger, and in a season where only one striker was utilised up front, playing him out of position was deemed better for his development rather that sitting him on the bench. After the unfortunate injury to Zlatan at the end of the season, it was left to Rashford to lead the line, being the player responsible for scoring the goals. He did just that, not in every match, but he scored some crucial goals, including a free-kick against Celta Vigo in Spain, the goal that won United the semi-final first leg. Rashford, still a teenager has the potential, the determination and the talent to succeed. Next season will be just as big for him as he looks towards earning his stripes.

Appearances: Premier League: 32, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 6, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 53

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed for United last summer, the third signing and one who would excite. The Armenian was wanted by many clubs in the Premier League, many of whom will deny they wanted him based on the fact Jose Mourinho and Manchester United got him. He had a tough start to his season, being hooked at half-time against Manchester City at Old Trafford, then suffering an injury and then sitting on the sidelines waiting for a chance to be given to him. When he got the chance, he paid the manager back. Mkhitaryan scored six goals in the UEFA Europa League, breaking a record in doing so. He has turned into a class act for his club, a player who will keep giving what is needed at the club. Mkhitaryan has the ability to create and score for United, as he had done throughout the season, scoring eleven goals in 40 appearances, which may not be the best, be compared to his peers, he did just as much, if not more than them. The Armenian will be fired up for the new season. New acquisitions are coming, ones to better the team and strengthen the weakened areas, better still, more of that winning mentality, which has been needed for the last three years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Appearances: Premier League: 23, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 40

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 6, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 4, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

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