Friday 30 December 2016

Opinion: United's top five 2016 moments

There's never a dull moment at the biggest club in the world and 2016 was no different: a year of managerial change, world record signings and trophy-lifting triumphs. 
Here, we look at the top five moments at our club in 2016. Happy New Year! 

New faces, new United...

The first home match of any new season is always exciting, but there was added intrigue ahead of the Southampton fixture this time around.
It was the first time we had laid eyes on Paul Pogba, following the former Academy star's world record £89 million move from Juventus.
He started alongside fellow summer recruits Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Henrik Mkhitaryan later coming off the bench under the Friday night floodlights. 
There was a buzz in the stands, with Jose Mourinho's first competitive match as our new manager heralding a brave new era. 

Wayne's Anfield winner....

United's 1-0 success at Anfield in January was far from a classic: in fact it was one the least memorable meetings between the two fierce rivals in many a year.
Not that we cared much, mind, when Wayne Rooney stole a classic smash-and-grab win with his first Anfield goal since 2005 in front of 2,763 visiting fans (and a couple of injured players). 
It was certainly a moment to savour, as Louis van Gaal secured a fourth successive league win over the men from Merseyside, with this being the first match against United for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. 

A star is born: The Wynthenshawe wonder 

Marcus Rashford first hit the headlines with a brace on his debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League.
Three days later, his follow-up double against title-chasing Arsenal catapulted the precocious 18-year-old to overnight stardom. 
The previously unknown Academy starlet from Wynthenshawe had ripped it up on the biggest stage and performed like a playground hero. 
It was the stuff us fans can only dream of and, while his subsequent rise (including the Manchester derby winner) has been nothing short of remarkable, that outing against the Gunners will live long in the memory.
In a dark season, it was heart-warming and reassuring, a reminder of the United DNA and what makes our club unique.

Semi-final scenes... an emotional connection

If you meet anyone with no interest in United, or football as a whole, just take a look at Anthony Martial's late, late winner in the FA Cup semi-final.
Take a look at the players celebrating joyously with the euphoric United fans. 
Those scenes represent an emotional connection between the squad and supporters that is too rarely seen in the commercial world of the modern game. 
The team had secured a place in an FA Cup final for the first time since 2007 - and a chance to end a 12-year drought for the trophy - so it meant an awful lot to everyone at the club, particularly when the league campaign had been so disappointing. 

Lifting the FA Cup....

Nothing beats winning a trophy. No-one remembers the plucky underdogs or gallant runners-up. Don't let anyone tell you any differently. No 2016 review would be complete without mention of the FA Cup win, our first silverware since the retirement of SAF in 2013.
It was an exceptional day in a difficult season, and its winning was so typical of United, too.
We fell behind, we made it hard for ourselves and went down to ten men, it almost slipped away but we fought back to take the trophy. 
Valencia's cross, Delaney's scuffed clearance, home-grown talent Jesse Lingard's first-time volley into the top bins. Boom! 
Not even that dodgy dance from then-Palace boss Alan Pardew could ruin the day.
United will never settle for a cup win over league success but that day at Wembley was one to enjoy, relish and re-live. 

Bring on 2017.... 

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