Pubcaster and resident Manchester United fan Michael Coxon blogs about the surprisingly vast selection of Anti-Player of the Year candidates at Old Trafford.
Seven points clear in the Premier League. A Champions League Semi-Final in which we are favourites. A Dimitar Berbatov away from the FA Cup Final. The Community Shield (the most important of course, who could forget Hernandez’s…erm…”header”). And a disgrace of a performance at Upton Park in the bleak mid-winter in the League Cup.
That list pretty much sums up United’s season, and not just literally. It’s been a season of great success in the League despite looking a shadow of the great teams of ’94, ’99 or ’08. It’s been a season of defensive frugality and efficient progression in the Champions League. But it’s also been a season of luck and underwhelming performances at times, so the Football Pubcast “Anti Player Of The Year” awards provides a great platform to highlight that.
For every Nani, there has been a Obertan. For every Hernandez, a Bebe. For every Vidic, an Evans. And for every Paul Scholes first half of the season, there has been a Paul Scholes second half of the season. So without further adieu, here are the men who have under-whelmed at times when more has been required.
Jonny Evans: Where better to start than the man deemed good enough to allow Gerard Pique to go back to Barcelona? To be fair to Jonny Evans he excelled in his loan spells at Sunderland and in his first two seasons in the United first team, at times performing more consistently than Vidic and Ferdinand. But this year has been his “annus crappus”. Ever since Chris Smalling joined he’s looked to be lacking in confidence, and as such has dropped to fourth (or at times fifth) choice centre back. But be fair to young Jonny (and he is still young for a central defender), he has struggled with injuries and the fine form of Vidic, Smalling and (when fit) Ferdinand. However somehow he has at times fallen behind our next man in the pecking order…
Wes Brown: Ahh Wesley Brown. It’s incredible to think Wes Brown has been in the United first team for 13 years now. He’s been to the World Cup with England, won numerous League titles and two European Cups. And still most people think he’s a bit shit. I’ve always been an advocate of the world’s biggest baked bean, and you only have to look at the 2007-08 season where he played more times than anybody else as United secured the League and European Cup, in the process making the right back slot his own in the best defensive line-up of the modern era and finally becoming an England regular. But as has always been the case, he’s struggled with injuries and the curse of being unglamorous. Who would you rather see in your defense, a lad from Manchester? Or a tricky young Brazilian, a Serbian brute, England’s most expensive defender and (until recently…) captain, and a loveable Frenchman with umpteen siblings and a tendency to start fights with groundsmen? After falling out with Fergie last summer I sadly expect Wesley to bite the dust and head off to Newcastle, Everton or Villa in the summer (although to be fair Tottenham could do worse).
Gabriel Obertan: Ahh, now we’re getting into proper “Bellion territory” (but at least Bellion scored more than once). The sort of player who’ll join Andy Goram, Jordi Cruyff, Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba and William Prunier in the most underwhelming Masters side ever. For a brief period in the autumn Gabriel Obertan looked to be fulfilling the potential that is so clearly there. He’s fast, skillful and, as shown against Bursaspor, can grab a goal or two. However most of the time he just runs into a defender and gets pushed over. He’s equally good on both wings, but I don’t mean that as a compliment, and must be a favourite to head off to Nantes or Montpellier or Toulouse in the summer. All this while Tom Cleverley has been quietly playing wonderfully for two years out on loan.
Bebe: I recently read a fellow United fan say that they like to pretend that Javier Hernandez cost £13m (still a bargain), and Bebe never happened. Well sorry my friend but he did. It’s not Bebe’s fault, arriving on a wave of publicity and controversy as the first “homeless” player in the Premier League, he’s really had to deal with a lot in his short United career. I still think he could come good, and some amazing goals in the reserves back that up. However most of the times he’s been plunged into the first team he’s looked lost. A laughable performance replacing Owen Hargreaves against Wolves is probably the most notable but there are many, and again a similar player in Danny Welbeck has been at Sunderland earning England call-ups and ripping Chelsea to pieces.
The Worst of the Rest: Michael Owen is telling everyone who’ll listen on Twitter that he’s sure he’ll score a vital goal in the title run-in, and while I’m inclined to believe him a season of injuries and falling to, at times, 6th choice striker doesn’t bode well for his contract being renewed. Michael Carrick on the other hand has been given a new contract, and would probably have featured on the above list until the past month where he’s looked something like his former self. Likewise Wayne Rooney, who ensured he’ll never truly be regarded as a United legend with his off-pitch behaviour but saved his reputation with top class showings post-January. Gary Neville, as you may or may not know, is a favourite of mine. Unfortunately the Neviller showed in his fleeting appearances this season that he’s off the pace but was wise enough (unlike many) to retire. Another man who should heed G-Nev’s actions is Paul Scholes. He showed player of the year form in the opening months of the season before a series of indiscplined and off-the-pace showings highlight that maybe he should retire on a (relative) high, after all we can’t all be Ryan “Energizer” Giggs. After those names you have the likes of Anderson, who did his usual “look great for a month, then get injured or fall out with Fergie and disappear”. With Scholes on the way out he really needs to step up next year. Federico Macheda looked average and arrogant first half of the season before heading off on loan to Sampdoria and looking average and arrogant, what we wouldn’t give for another Aston Villa moment in this title run-in. And finally, a brief note on Owen Hargreaves. I’m not sure 5 minutes against Wolves can count as dreadful (especially given the performance Bebe put in replacing him), but despite all our wishes it’s looking highly unlikely that the man who drove United to Champions League glory with some imperious midfield displays and would have saved England from 4 years of Gareth Barry will ever recover.
My, what a black picture I’ve painted. Anyone would think we’ve had a season of board-room strife, changing managers, our top striker leaving and Joe Cole being crap. I must doff my cap to the likes of Nani, Vidic, Smalling, Berbatov, Valencia (when fit), the Da Silvas, van der Sar, Sir Ryan Giggs and, of course, that boy Chicharito. It’s been a strange year for United, one that looks likely to end in top honours but little respect from their peers. But a time a when traditionally a lot of back-slapping goes on (see the PFA Player of the “First Six Months Of The Season” Award), it’s always good to look back, criticise and be a bit miserable. I mean, is there anything more Northern than that?
Agree? Disagree? Let us know on Twitter @FootballPubcast and @michaelcoxon or nominate your own clubs Anti Player of the Year, and be sure to include the hashtag #antiPOTY