As the season looks to come to an early close due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are not sure as to when, or even if, the season will start up again. With this in mind, we should look at some of our best individual performers over the course of our up and down season. Who impressed? Who vastly improved? Let’s have a look at 5 players who could be debated as player of the season…
26 year old Fred has made huge strides this season to become one of the most popular players at the football club. Statistically, he made improvements in nearly every single category; in the league he was up from 1.7 to 2.2 for tackles per game. He attempted 0.28 less dribbles a game (1.55) yet completed 0.34 more dribbles a game than last season with 1.17 completed per 90, meaning his dribble success rate rocketed from 45.5% to 75.5%! This suggests that he has become much better at deciding when to initiate one of his dribbles. Interceptions have also been on the rise, up to 1.63 per 90. Despite his increase in tackles, his fouls went down from 1.94 per 90 to 1.63 per 90, ironically his yellow cards per 90 nearly doubled. Even going forward, Fred made 1.25 key passes per 90, up from 0.89. One part of his game that does frustrate fans is his shooting, this season he shot 23.6%, not great, but much better than his 8.7% last campaign! 30 of his 37 shots were from outside of the area, a problem where he still needs to shoot less from distance. xGChain is the total team-adjusted xG earned by the team on possessions in which the player participated, where Fred’s was 0.45 per 90, meaning the possessions he was a part of directly should have resulted in around half a goal a game. When he was playing, our goal difference was 1.49 greater per 90 than when we played without him. Just using the eye test, it was easy to see that this season, Fred was brimming with much more confidence than last, he has been tenacious, hard working and much more relaxed on the ball. A very good season overall from the Brazilian.
This season, Maguire has come into the club, become the captain, and has had a quietly ever improving season throughout his stay so far. Averaging 1.7 interceptions and 4.4 clearances a match, he has been a dominant force at the back, leading the side very well. With 141 final third passes (3.48 per 90) this gives him the second highest total at the club (only behind Fred), this stat gives us an insight that despite being a centre back, he is great at progressing the ball forwards rather than keeping it deep. Whilst playing, United’s goal difference was 4.29 greater per 90 than when he was off the field! He has averaged 0.96 shots a game as he has consistently posed a threat from set pieces, if anything slightly under-performing, missing 2 shots of greater than 0.45 xG. 18 of 22 of his 26 shots were from set pieces, showing his aerial presence. There is room for improvement, particularly in the tackling department, but he had a very good United debut season and long should it continue.
This season, Rashford made huge strides towards being one of the leading wingers in the Premier League. Despite having his season ended early by injury, his hard work before hand has to leave him in consideration for player of the year. With 19 goals by January, he had a very good chance of hitting 30 goals in all competitions by the end of the season. Whilst playing, he combined with the other attackers brilliantly, finishing chances from James and linking with Martial beautifully at times. He had 1.56 shots on target per 90 whilst dishing out just over 1 key pass per 90. His dribbling success rate was pretty much identical to the previous season, however it was at a much higher rate this time around, with 4.56 attempted per 90 compared to 2.95 last season. This shows the level of confidence he had this season when going forward. This is further shown by him completing 9 nutmegs, the cheek! His xGChain per 90 was 0.61 showing he was heavily involved even when not being on the end of the play himself. Of his 74 league shots, 32 were from outside of the box with 0.06xG per shot, suggesting he may be better to shoot a bit less from distance, especially when his shots from within the penalty area had an xG per shot of 0.30, much better chance of scoring. Despite this, he was a brilliant spark in our season, and much deserving of a nomination for player of the season.
As recently mentioned in our article “Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Becoming the right back we need?“, our right back has been brilliant for us this season, and has been improving throughout it. Averaging 3.4 tackles a game at a success rate of 80.4%, he has been a brick wall for opposing wingers coming up against him, with his ability to make a last ditch tackle having been showcased many times this season. With 1.9 interceptions and 1.8 clearances per 90 as well, Aaron has proven that defensively, he is one of the best full backs in world football. Going forward, he has attempted 2.71 crosses per 90 alongside his respectable dribble success rate of 67.1%. With 0.71 key passes per 90, he has become increasingly involved in attacks as the season has progressed, with his confidence slowly growing and the coaching teams insistence on repetitively practising attacking scenarios with him. The recovery speed he possesses has also proven crucial at times this season, with him racing back to halt counter attacks often. It is not common for a signing to come in and make the impact on a team that he has, but he has done this exceptionally.
This season, our number 9 has been asked to lead the line as a centre forward for the first time, and has taken to the task like a duck to water. With 0.53 goals (excluding penalties) per 90, the Frenchman is scoring just over once every other match from open play. With 0.43 goals per shot on target, he is finishing as clinically as ever, even in the face of much criticism at times this season. With an xGChain per 90 of 0.67 (one of the highest at the club), his role as a “false 9” this season can be seen as he drops deeper to help link up play for other players. This was particularly notable during his absence with injury, in that period the rest of the attack struggled to score, then on his return exploded into action again. This can also be seen as whilst on the pitch, the team’s goal difference is greater by 1.66 per 90 than when he is absent. Once again, as with all his seasons at United, he is outperforming his xG as he continues to put away difficult chances; in fact only Greenwood at the club has outperformed his xG in more impressive fashion than Martial. With a dribble success rate of 62.8%, he continues to excel in tight areas as seen with his goal against Watford. When all things considered, particularly how the side struggled without him, he definitely deserves to be in the conversation for player of the season.
The 5 players I discussed, I feel, all have strong shouts to be considered United’s Player of the Season. Do any of these players stand out from the other? Did I miss out anyone that should’ve been considered? Discuss in the comments, would love to hear everybody else’s opinions.