Friday, 27 December 2019

Manchester United in a decade: The 2010s

Christmas has gone and the New Year is fast approaching. The end of 2019 marks not only the start of 2020, but also the beginning of a new decade. A New Year is traditionally a time for reflection and contemplation on the last 12 months but also an opportunity to look forward at what lies ahead.

It hasn't been a vintage decade and the lows have certainly outweighed the highs since our last league title win in 2013. We won the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal, and both the League Cup and Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2016-17. The first third of the decade continued the trophy laden zenith of this great club's illustrious history, whilst the rest has been a series of false dawns, awful signings and almost unrelenting underachievement.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Reds play their last game of 2019 at Burnley on Saturday as the games come thick and fast, before kicking off the new decade at Arsenal on New Year's Day. Here at United Faithful we decided to walk down memory lane and take a look at our club's best goals, games, players and moments from the 2010s. Here's to the next decade.

Best player - David de Gea

There were several contenders for this one - with honourable mentions to Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick to name but four, but we went for De Gea in the end. Although De Gea is no longer at the peak of his considerable powers, we would have been significantly worse off without him over the past six years. Four times our club's Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year thanks to his excellent consistency between the sticks, De Gea has also been in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year on five occasions.
His performance levels have dropped over the last 18 months, but he still deserves huge credit for what he's achieved - individually at least - during his time at Old Trafford. It's a shame he hasn't gone on to win the glut of major trophies that would be fitting for a player of his quality. There can be no doubt his place amongst United's great pantheon of legendary keepers.

Best game - Crystal Palace 1-2 Man Utd (FA Cup Final 2016)

Perhaps not the first game that springs to mind when discussing a "best of" for Man Utd in the 2010s. We won the Europa League against Ajax on an emotional night in Stockholm and overturned seemingly impossible odds in Paris to down red-hot favourites PSG with THAT Marcus Rashford penalty. We beat Arsenal 8-2, came back from the dead to spoil Man City's title coronation and enjoyed the 'Juanfield' match in 2015. And plenty more besides.
But we chose this game because it was the first trophy in the post Sir-Alex Ferguson era and was secured in a vintage United manner  in thrilling fashion. 1-0 down and down to ten men, United's young team fought back to force extra-time in the 2016 Cup final against Pardew's Palace at Wembley. Up popped one of our own Jesse Lingard, 25 yards from goal, with a dipping volley that beat Wayne Hennessey all ends up to win the Cup for United. Louis van Gaal had done as promised and won a trophy. He was sacked less than 24 hours later but deserved another season. A surprise winner of this category maybe, but it was special to me. A climb off the canvas victory in a major cup final with one player short, brought home by an Academy graduate. If that doesn't epitomise United then I don't know what does.

Best goal - Wayne Rooney (vs Man City, Feb 2011)

This was a no brainer for me, it instantly came into my vision when thinking about what to go with here. It wasn't just the actual goal itself, it was the opponents it came against, the magnitude of the game, the technique and the fact it kept United on track for the title. City were a growing force at the time and this goal kept the "noisy neighbours" quiet for another season even if they did go on to win the FA Cup. Nani's deflected cross, Rooney up like a salmon to send an unstoppable exocet missile beyond startled, stranded City keeper Joe Hart. Old Trafford erupts and one of the Premier League's most iconic moments is born. I can still hear the Sky Sports commentary even now to this day.
"ROONEYYYYYYY... It defies description, how about magnificent, what about superb." Nothing else needs to be said. Magic.

Best moment - A star is born 

Rewind to February 2016, when a depleted and injury hit United are in the depths of despair amidst a winter of discontent. Louis van Gaal's Reds have dropped into the Europa League and ahead of the Old Trafford tie with the Danish minnows of FC Midjylland, Anthony Martial - United's only fit senior striker - suffers an eleventh-hour injury in the warm up. Enter, an unknown 18-year-old Academy graduate by the name of Marcus Rashford. Marcus scores twice on his debut and then follows up with a brace on his league bow against title chasing Arsenal three days later. A star is born and a new chapter written. Rashford's emergence is our best United moment of the decade and rightly so. Almost four years on, Rashford is enjoying the best season of his young career, all kick-started by those three days in February when the local hero became a household name. Rashford has come of age and will only continue to come good as we approach the next decade.

So that's the best of, now let's take a look at our worst. We're not to do a match for this category
(I don't have all night), but whilst there have been some truly signings, one stands out above the rest. With honourable mentions to Angel Di Maria, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian, we bring you...

Worst signing... Alexis Sanchez 

United's recruitment has been nothing short of absolutely woeful, not just since Sir Alex stepped down but even before then. It started when Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid and we signed Antonio Valencia, Bebe, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen as 'replacements'. There's no doubt our recruitment has been on a downward spiral since 2009, but that side of things is starting to show the green shoots of recovery under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Nevertheless, whoever made the call to sign Alexis Sanchez needs their heads checking and charges should be made against them for fraud and breaking the trade description act.
I was very excited by his signing, finally we had a world class player and a proven top level star, a player who would help us kick on and elevate our level to where we feel we should be. He arrived as one of the best players in the league if not all of Europe, but Sanchez's swap deal to United may not have cost us anything in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan (another contender for worst signing surely) but it was an absolute disasterclass from day one. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were flying at the time but thrown off kilter by his arrival, our wage structure became ridiculously top heavy and Sanchez scored three goals in two seasons. Awful. Now on loan at Inter Milan, I'd be surprise if we ever seen him in the red of United again. So there you have it. Sanchez tops a very lengthy list of United's worst signings of the 2010s.

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