Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and Manchester United's Best Performers 2011/12
So close, but yet so far. That's Manchester United's 2011-12 season summed up.
The Old Trafford outfit were mere seconds away from a 20th league title when Sergio Aguero's late winner for City snatched the cup from their grasp.
In those few seconds, a season of ups and downs and emotional roller coasters was perfectly summed. It was the denouement of a long, drawn-out dance that saw United, at one stage, go as far as eight points ahead in the title race—with a lead in goal differential—only to be pegged back before losing on goal differential.
Manchester United's total points tally of 89 was the highest ever amassed by a runner-up. Despite that, the specter of a trophy-less campaign will haunt fans and players alike for the weeks and months to come.
Nevertheless, this season has been full of great team and individual performances. Here's a look at United's best performers of the 2011-12 season.
Recently voted by his teammates and the United fans as the Manchester United Player of the Year, Antonio Valencia has been an irrepressible force for United this season.
The Ecuadorian's season began late because of an injury he sustained away at the Copa America tournament.
But once he got back into the groove of things, his contributions reinvigorated his teammates and helped the club team catch up with and overtake Manchester City, who seemed to be running away with the title.
Speaking on Valencia's form this season, Sir Alex Ferguson had nothing but praise for the winger, according to the team's website:
The form he's produced this season since coming back from injury has been amazing. He's a great professional and he has the qualities we love in our game. I think that's why the other players have given him this award.
It is likely that Jonny Evans will go down as an unsung hero when looking back on this campaign, and his contributions to the team on defense this season have been nothing short of impressive.
As a whole, the 24-year-old has improved greatly.
Once thought to have been surpassed in the pecking order by Chris Smalling, Evans roared his way into the first team with performances that not only made it difficult for Sir Alex to not pick him, but also relegated £19 million centre-back summer signing Phil Jones to everywhere but his preferred position.
Speaking to the media about Evans' form this season, Sir Alex Ferguson had high praise for the Northern Irishman, via the Manchester Evening News:
Jonny came to us from Belfast when he was 12 or 13, always exceptionally talented, but gangly with physical issues growing up.
We had him out on loan with Antwerp and Sunderland and now we are seeing the value of nurturing him. There is no doubt he has been helped playing alongside the experience of Rio and he is now arguably the best defender in the country.
Does Wayne Rooney's inclusion on this list need any explanation?
In a season where Manchester United suffered a distinct lack of midfield presence and the solid base it gives for attacks and counterattacks, that Rooney scored as many goals (34) as he did—and many of them vital in United's title push—was truly impressive.
Deservedly one of the star players in world football, it was no surprise that Rooney was the one player that consistently stood out in the ranks of United's current strikers.