Monday, 1 January 2018

United's best of 2017: Part Two - Individuals

As we welcome 2018 - Happy New Year to all United fans around the world - we looked at United's collective showing in the first part of our best of 2018 series. In this second part, the focus shifts from the team to our individual stars.. 

Best player: Paul Pogba
Honourable mention: Antonio Valencia

It was a tough call to separate this powerful and supremely consistent duo, but the French international gets the nod because of his game-changing abilities. After a slow start to life back at United, he flourished during the second half of last season and scored a crucial goal in the Europa League final against Ajax. He won the Player of the Year award for that competition. He hit the ground running this term, with the arrival of Nemanja Matic bringing out the best in him. A recent period of absence - through first injury and then suspension - only further emphasised his importance and role in the team.

Best goal: Jesse Lingard v Watford
Honourable mention: Antonio Valencia v Everton

Tony V was again in contention for this one, thanks to his rocket-powered, net busting volley against the Toffees back in September. But the technical qualities of Jesse's wonderful individual effort at Vicarage Road in November gets the nod. The in-form Academy graduate - enjoying the best season of his United career so far - collected the ball in his own half, ran the length of the pitch, rounded several back-pedalling Hornets defenders before he skipped beyond Heurelho Gomes and slotted in. It rounded off a brilliant 4-2 result in the league, and - whisper it  - but there were echoes of his idol Ryan Giggs' famous FA Cup winner over Arsenal in 1999.

Best save: David de Gea v Arsenal
Honourable mention: David de Gea v Stoke

There were an embarrassment of riches to choose from for this one, with the best keeper in the world defying belief and gravity on a seemingly weekly basis (and that was just from that one game against Arsenal in which he made 14 saves, all of them jaw dropping). We've plumped for the Spaniard's spectacular double stop that thwarted efforts from dangerous Gunners duo Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez from point blank range - the second of which saw DDG turn the ball over the bar with his foot two yards out with scarcely believable reaction reflexes. Of all the match-winning displays we've seen from De Gea over the years, this was the greatest of them all. #DaveSaves

Best individual display: David de Gea v Arsenal
Honourable mention: Ander Herrera v Chelsea

United's immense 2-0 win over champions-elect Chelsea was one of the best United moments of the year as we put Antonio Conte's side to the sword. A brilliant all-round team performance was memorable for Ander Herrera's magnificent individual showing when his man-marking job on Eden Hazard forced one of the league's best playmakers to the fringes and never allowed the Belgian to have an impact. Herrera went on to win the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award. It was a performance that would need something special to usurp it and said performance duly arrived in north London in December. Dave's world-class talent and cat-like reflexes were displayed in glorious, acrobatic and match-winning fashion.

Best breakthrough: Scott McTominay 
Honourable mention: Axel Tuanzebe

Academy graduate Scott McTominay made his senior United debut at the Emirates in May - albeit in a dead rubber with United eyes on the imminent Europa League final in Stockholm. That earned him a place on the pre-season of the States and since then he's retained a regular place in the first-team squad to provide valuable and vital backup in the engine room. He's gone on to make a Champions League debut and, still only 20, looks set for a bright future at Old Trafford. He's featured in nearly every matchday squad this season, and also signed a new long-term contract. Team-mate Tuanzebe has had to make do with more sporadic senior games, but has shone when called upon and these two look to be the best of the next crop of emerging young United talent. Here's to a promising and prosperous 2018..



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