Grading All of Manchester United's Players for the 2012-13 Season
David Moyes will inherit a sturdy squad when he takes over from Sir Alex Ferguson on July 1.
Ferguson’s unerring ability to delicately mix youth and experience has resulted in a vast roster of eclectic talent, but some critics still think that this is one of the club’s worst teams in decades.
Of course, that seems like a preposterous statement to make when you look back on United’s dominance over the past 12 months.
But the Red Devils haven’t exactly blown the footballing world away with their displays recently, and Ferguson’s cunning knowledge is the main reason for their position at the summit of the table.
He has now gone, though, so which players have been the key reason for United’s success over the last campaign?
Here are grades for each of Manchester United’s players in the 2012/13 season…
David de Gea: 8/10
In September, speculation began to circulate that David de Gea’s career at Old Trafford was over.
A terrible mistake by the goalkeeper against Fulham at home saw Nemanja Vidic score a spectacular own goal, and over the next few games, Anders Lindegaard inherited the position from the Spaniard.
But over Christmas he reclaimed his place, and a heroic display at the Bernabeu helped to keep United level.
This proved to be the catalyst for a string of clean sheets throughout February and March that have cemented his No. 1 status at United.
His decision-making, confidence and stature have each improved, whilst his stunning shot-stopping ability has never been in doubt.
De Gea should be United’s No. 1 for the next decade.
Anders Lindegaard: 5/10
Lindegaard has proved a worthy understudy to De Gea as the Spaniard adjusted to English life.
But a woeful showing against Reading in December saw him concede three first-half goals, and despite a prolonged stint in the team throughout the autumn, he never looked likely to threaten De Gea’s position in the long run.
One of United’s most improved players over the past 12 months, the Brazilian is now the Red Devil’s first-choice right-back and possibly their most potent attacking threat on the wing.
He has added goals, crosses and assists to his game, whilst maintaining a defensive discipline, energy and edge that has only teetered over the brink once, against David Luiz earlier in the month.
Goals against Liverpool and QPR have endeared him to the United faithful, and at 23, he promises to be involved in Old Trafford’s endeavours for many years to come.
Rio Ferdinand: 8/10
It’s easy to forget that many Manchester United fans had written Rio Ferdinand off by September after they conceded three goals at home to Tottenham.
Ferdinand’s game has managed to adjust, though, and he now uses his mind rather than his pace to battle attackers.
He has become United’s most consistent centre-back, and even though he is approaching 34 years of age, he still deserves a new contract. He can also help the more youthful defenders replace him.
Nemanja Vidic: 7/10
It’s been a frustrating campaign for the United captain.
Then in September he was ruled out for eight weeks and didn’t manage to truly settle into his defensive rhythm until after Christmas.
Since then, though, he has shown that he still has the strength and timing to excel in the league and was at the heart of United’s longest stretch of clean sheets.
Hopefully, he can stay away from injury next season and return to his devastating best.
Jonny Evans: 7/10
Jonny Evans might be disappointed by his efforts this season, but there have been many positives for the Northern Irishman.
He would have seen this as the perfect year to cement himself in the United back line because of the injuries and loss of form to Rio and Nemanja.
And despite performances at the Bernabeu and a prolonged period in the team through the autumn, he still remains a peripheral player in United’s defence.
Still, he has now begun to contribute goals to the team and can be relied upon when he is needed.
But he still lacks the authority to be truly feared by the opposition.
Alexander Buttner: 6/10
Since his stunning league debut against Wigan in September, where he created the second and scored the third in a 4-0 win, Buttner has only managed 11 appearances in all competitions.
His defensive frailties were taken advantage of against West Ham and Braga, and he needs more games to truly flourish in the league.
Phil Jones: 7/10
It’s been an interesting end of the season for Phil Jones.
He has turned into an Internet sensation due to his bizarre facial expressions, and Sir Alex Ferguson has declared that he could go on to become United’s greatest ever player.
That remains to be seen, but Jones is now a useful and diverse player at Old Trafford.
Standout performances away at Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid have shown that he has the nous to perform in central midfield, and he recovered from injury after Christmas to become a key figure in United’s title run-in.
Chris Smalling: 6/10
The forgotten man of the United defence.
Rafael’s emergence and Jonny Evans and Phil Jones’ progression have overshadowed Smalling as he quietly amounted 22 appearances this season.
But Smalling himself has admitted that it’s been a frustrating campaign for him due to injuries, and he hasn’t played for United since the FA Cup quarter final replay defeat to Chelsea.
He faces a real battle to establish himself in the hectic back line next season.
Antonio Valencia: 5/10
Possibly Manchester United’s most dangerous player last season, Valencia has struggled immensely since November.
Before then, he had amassed three league assists, but he has only added two more to that total over the past few months, and it took him until April to notch his first league goal too.
Opposition fullbacks now know to show him onto his much weaker left foot, and Valencia will need to adapt if he is to reach the heights of previous years again.
Ashley Young: 4/10
Young has struggled for both form and fitness this season, and it’s been over a year since he truly made an impact on the wing in Red.
His dilly-dallying on the ball as he looks for the perfect time to plant a cross into the box has proved to be so confusing that even Robin van Persie can’t get on the end of his assists.
Most United fans are now fed up with his inconsistency and believe that, with Wilfried Zaha set to join, his time is up at the club.
Probably the most divisive man at Old Trafford.
When he is at his best, Nani is one of the most feared wingers in the world, as he proved in opening 55 minutes against Real Madrid at Old Trafford.
But his inconsistency often means United end up playing with 10 men, both figuratively and physically, as he proved in the 56th minute against Real Madrid at Old Trafford.
Injuries and fall-outs have restricted him to only 17 games this season, and it’s most likely that he won’t be around in August to improve on this total.
Ryan Giggs: 7/10
What more can you say?
Ryan Giggs looks like he could continue to play in the Premier League until he is 60, and his efforts against Real Madrid and Everton showed that he still has the touch and vision to excel against the world’s best.
Restless, smart and deadly, the Welshman can still unlock a defence more acutely than any other player in the Premier League. A genius.
What are we feeding him?
The Brazilian’s size continues to be an issue, but now recurring injuries have also started to affect his game too.
Anderson has lost the vibrancy and drive that saw him become a key part of the United teams between 2008 and 2011, and two fruitless years at the club appear to have rung the final death knell on his time at Old Trafford.
Useless after 60 minutes.
Michael Carrick: 9/10
The king is dead; long live the king.
Paul Scholes' re-emergence last year was due in part to United’s struggle in the centre of the pitch.
But Carrick’s form this season has erased these problems with aplomb, and now the ginger magician can finally call time on his United career without needing to worry about being called upon again in December.
Carrick has turned into United’s metronome, and he now provides an array of passes and dictates the game whilst he always makes himself available for a pass.
He’s quietly improved his game, but he can still be viciously efficient when needed. More goals and biting tackles would be nice, but it’s been an almost flawless campaign from the Geordie.
Paul Scholes: 6/10
In many ways Scholesy would have wanted to go out on a personal high, when his performances were at their peak.
But in other ways he would have loved letting Ferguson and Rooney sweep the limelight over the past few days, before announcing his own departure.
Injuries have ruined the latter parts of the year for him, but he was still effective in the earlier months, even scoring against Wigan, which meant he had struck in 19 consecutive Premier League seasons.
A bona fide Old Trafford legend.
Tom Cleverley: 7/10
Cleverley has certainly improved since last season, adding goals and strength to his game, whilst still maintaining the energy and passing skills that are his key attributes too.
But is it enough? He looks shattered after 60 minutes, and since April, he has been relegated to the reserves because of poor performances.
At 23, he is by no means the finished article, and Moyes might still look to build his midfield around Cleverley, but it’s hard not to be disappointed by his slump since February.
Shinji Kagawa: 7/10
Shinji Kagawa’s form was the main reason why Wayne Rooney’s transfer request was regarded as more of a nuisance rather than a crisis by United fans last week.
Even before Kagawa struggled with injury through autumn and Christmas, goals and touches of class against Everton, Tottenham and Fulham already had the Red Devils salivating in anticipation of his skills.
A hat trick against Norwich confirmed his potential, and he has turned out to have been United’s best player through the spring too.
Kagawa’s continental approach could be vital in United’s hunt for European glory next season.
Javier Hernandez: 7/10
Match-winning goals against Braga, Chelsea, Aston Villa and QPR within the space of a month helped to remind United fans of the diminutive Mexican’s goal-scoring prowess.
Hernandez is seen as the heir apparent to Ole Solskjaer’s super sub tag, but a possible Wayne Rooney departure could see him used more prominently next term.
He’s always reliable, and a great character and role model for the club.
Danny Welbeck: 6/10
Two fine performances against Real Madrid helped to overshadow Welbeck’s lack of goals, a paltry two all season long, but it’s his versatility which is both holding the young Mancunian back, and giving him more appearances in Red.
Welbeck has shown that he can do a job in a variety of positions, but he never looks comfortable leading the line.
The problem is, you can’t see this changing for a while.
Wayne Rooney: 7/10
OK, so let’s start at the stats. Rooney has scored 16 goals in 36 games for United this season, which is a good return when you consider how he has been moved across the field at a whim.
But he has failed to adjust to Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa’s arrivals, and when he was dropped against Real Madrid, it became apparent that he was not United’s talisman anymore.
Rooney’s performances since have been half-hearted, and it was no surprise when Ferguson announced that he had handed in a transfer request for the second time in three years.
United fans have now had enough.
Robin van Persie: 9/10
All that needs to be stated is that without Robin van Persie, Manchester United would, probably, not be champions.
Van Persie is also set to be the Premier League’s leading goal scorer in his first tenure at Old Trafford too, so I think we can call that a success.
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