ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Manchester United
soccernet blog
Manchester United
Posted by Mark Payne on 05/29/2012

This column has completed its fifth year and here are my End of Season Awards. In many ways, this has been the most heartbreaking campaign during my time at the keyboard. Nevertheless, there was still a fair amount to cheer about, even if the trophies ended up with the evil clubs this time out.

Next week, a player-by-player assessment of 2011/2012 will appear on the site. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these.

Goal of the season
In the league, Crouchie’s goal against City was the one. For United, Fletcher’s curling, side-footer in the debacle against City takes the plaudits. A calm finish under immense pressure. This guy cannot return to action soon enough for me.

Signing of the season
Phil Jones. With his marauding runs forward, rugby player’s frame, and no-nonsense approach to tackling Jones fitted right in. Seasoned reds have mentioned him in the same breath as Duncan Edwards and I, for one, am a big fan.

Player of the season
Absolutely Wayne Rooney. A masterclass in finishing and teamwork. Ronaldo and Messi duke it out in Spain every week, but every manager in world football would take Rooney if they could.

Young player of the season
David de Gea. Our Spanish goalkeeper earned us points this season. To go in goal for Manchester United at such a young age takes some cojones. He will get better and better.

Biggest disappointment
Form in Europe. Whilst we United fans are spoilt in comparison to most with the number of big European nights we have enjoyed over the years, it still hurt to be dumped out of two competitions unceremoniously. Whilst Bilbao deserve much credit for both of their results against us, the attitude of the players in the games against Basle was just not good enough.

Blogger of the season?

Most improved
Danny Welbeck. His goals this year have been world class. An immense career awaits this guy if he can keep his head on his shoulders.

Whatever happened to…?
Javier Hernandez. Not a great second season from the young Mexican. He has been overplayed in recent years and missed pre-season through injury. Fergie spoke about him getting a proper rest this summer and I hope he returns with his 2010/2011 form.

Pillock of the season
Kenny Dalglish, closely run by John Terry, who is always a strong contender in this category.

Missed opportunity of the season
Not enough use of Berbatov. Could he have unlocked City’s defence? We will never know now, I am sorry to see him go.

Best breakthrough of the season
Tom Cleverley. Those brief flashes in August and September seem a million miles away now. This kid turned the Charity Shield in our favour. In 2012, we will not contest the trophy.

Most refreshing surprise of the season
No United players injured on England duty.

The TMUS (they make us suffer) award
The final two minutes at the Stadium of Light, our Bayern Munich moment and karma delivering, finally. I never want to experience that again.

Follow Mark on

Follow ESPNsoccernetFC on Twitter


Posted by Greb on 05/29/2012

Jones signing of the season? Promising until December and awful after that. He might stay a few years, but he will go back to the likes of Blackburn. Mediocre player.

De Gea is the signing of the season!

Posted by SingaporeIsRed on 05/29/2012

Signing of the season should go to De Gea.

The boy has been immense in the 2nd half. While some may argue that his mistakes in the 1st half of the season may have (very argueably) cost us the league, some of his performances in the 2nd half evened out on some of the games he kept us in too (think that 3-3 Chelsea game). He will only get better. Jones still hasn't founda suitable position to excel in unfortunately.

Young player of the season should go to Welbz.

Posted by Lovelytoppy on 05/29/2012

Anthonio valencia is best player of d season

Posted by Hakim on 05/29/2012

De Gea is the signing of the season for me...

Posted by danladi neziru on 05/29/2012

david de gea simply d best signing of the season......the guy is great probably jones the worst signing of the season

Posted by David Smith on 05/29/2012

We threw away an 8 point lead in April, absolutely cowered at Leastlands, then saw Dzeko and Aguero rip the title from our grasp in injury time on the last day....yeah, I could *$*7!! care less who the signing of the season was.

Posted by marvin on 05/29/2012

to me the best signing of the season is david de gea and ashley young most improved player valenica,player that shoulda play more is berbatov he woulda score goals for us and we woulda won the title cause he coulda give us about 15 to 20 goal in the league but he is going now and i will miss him everytime sir alex beside to snob somebody we end up losting the title check it out and the man of the season is wanye rooney and paul scholes

Posted by Jeffrey Youngmann on 05/29/2012

Unsung Hero of the year, for me has to go to Michael Carrick. He's been immense since his return from injury.
Hero of the Year goes to the Midfield General, Paul Scholes

Posted by kehinde temitope on 05/29/2012

I think de gea is signing of the season,
Player of the season: tony
Goal of the season: crouchy, but for united i think i ll give it to danny welbeck against everton or young against arsenal!

Posted by Aaron Mark Hendrix on 05/29/2012

Goal of the season - Valencia against Blackburn away
Signing of the season - De Gea
Player of the season - Valencia
Young Player of the season - Wellbeck
Most Improved - De Gea
Whatever Happened to... - the cash to sign top drawer players (instead of developing them)
Pillock of the season - KD & JT equally both for the obvious reasons
Missed Opportunity of the season - None, we never gave ourselves a chance anyway..
Best Breakthrough - De Gea
Most refreshing surprise of the season - None whatsoever

Posted by Dave on 05/29/2012

Jones and Rooney - SPOT ON! Valencia is one dimensional; wonder why he was left out against City? And in the same vein, Jones is outstanding wherever he plays. Would love to see him and Cleverly in front of the back four. Would the season have ended different if Jones had payed at right back against Everton???

Posted by devlsmurf on 05/29/2012

@David Smith, if you don't care, then you're not a real fan, go hop on the bandwagon somewhere else. You can't win EVERY season, otherwise it'd be boring.

I would agree on Welbeck being most improved, his touch was like that of a brick wall coming into this season, his playmaking abilities are getting better, although his goals/matches return wasn't good enough to be considered young player of the season.

Valencia would have been up there for player of the season, just because he can rip apart any defence, and the fact he wasn't deployed against City ranks as one of my highest regrets....

Posted by Maxitaxi on 05/29/2012

I think only a handful of players can hold their heads high after the debacle of last season. Rooney, Valencia, Scholes and surprisingly Lindegaard, who kept 6 clean sheets from 8 games before his injury.

Jones the signing of the season?? Started well but his inefective forays up front and his inability to cross a decent ball left his position vacant and caused us problems.

Fletcher's goal against City, goal of the season, how about Valencia's against Blackburn, not just stunning in its execution but at a vital time.

Sad to see Hazard has chosen Chelsea while we sign a lower priced Japanese midfielder. Not sure what that tells us about our reputation or finances.

If Fergie doesn't bring us some world class talent next season, especially defensively and creatively, we could start to see a slide. Perhaps one of the best signings we could make is Guardiola, he's out of contract and seems to be available and maybe SAF can rest up in the pantheon of the director’s box.

Posted by Jim on 05/29/2012

For me the season comes down to the last 10 minutes of the Everton game. Two goals in that span negated a year's hard work.

Posted by jeff on 05/29/2012

I'd say Valencia was our player of the season

Posted by Arthur on 05/29/2012

Do you have a rule that prohibits giving two awards to one person? I can see De Gea snapping signing of the season and battling with Welbeck for young player of the season. Jones isn't half as bad as people say but he didn't finish strong enough and we all know, the race isn't to the swift. He's good but still needs a lot of work; I was very disappointed with his form from December - March and those were the times we really needed him.

Posted by hassan mpili on 05/29/2012

credit for wazza

Posted by Joe G. on 05/29/2012

Great blog this season, as usual, Mark. Painful (I'll spare the pun b/c it is hardly a joking matter) as it was at the last, still a decent season. Thanks for put some perspective on it. I'll back you on Jonesy, I think the kid will be world-class one day soon as well.

Posted by Marty on 05/29/2012

What could have been award.Berbatov....Lets hear the true story Alex.Magnificent player couldnt even make the subs bench????

Posted by Ayushman on 05/29/2012

Smalling was injured on England duty this season. He also cut open his head in a United match!

Posted by Ayushman on 05/29/2012

Smalling was injured on England duty this season. He also cut open his head in a United match!

Posted by Sol on 05/29/2012

Coincidence is an interesting force, it somehow brought me to a Manchester United blog. I'll make the best of it...

hmmm, you guys are dissapointed...after so many (still somewhat) recent successes. "the most heartbreaking campaign", isn't that a bit loaded? I mean look at Inter, you'd rather want to be in their shoes instead?

Cheer up. I hope you're looking forward to a good EC as I am, as they say over at Arsenal, there's always next year. :P

Sorry for not having read everything yet.

Posted by ISMAILA AMINU on 05/29/2012

Am a big fans of man utd, if i want 2 pic d best player of d season 4 man utd i wil go 4 rooney.

Posted by Micho on 05/29/2012

4 me best player goes to Valencia, most improved De Gea. We will bounce back

Posted by PD on 05/29/2012

I'd take Valencia for best player, even though he never played as much as Rooney. Rooney was typical good, Valencia made the game different for both teams on the field.

I see a lot of potential in both Smalling and Jones. A bit of seasoning and they'll be fine. But I'll give Wellbeck best young player.

Biggest disappointment would be Berba not playing enough. He's such a wonder to watch and can score or set up goals, hold the ball up so well, plague defences. But he needed to play a lot to get in form and he hardly played. Other players were deserving of their chance as well, but Berba should have played more.

Clevery or Wellback for breakthrough. If Tom had stayed healthy we'd have known more, but Wellbeck did more on the field and thus I'd give him that one. I suggest he'll be better next year.

Signing of the season can't be De Gae as he was half a disaster. He might get most improved for the 2nd half or next year. I'd take Young for this one.

Posted by Greg R on 05/29/2012

If anyone has read SAF's biography, you can take comfort in what happened decades ago when United were last in a transition period. Management didn't break the bank for the flashiest names then either, at the time SAF having recently made failed bids for David Hirst, Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane before settling for Eric Cantona. Almost at the same time, giggs, beckham, scholes, and the nevilles were coming into their own. I have no doubt SAF will leave the team in the right direction before he moves upstairs

Posted by Adrian Clarke on 05/29/2012

Well the signing of the season is David De Gea, we should remember he's just 21 and has a lot of years ahead of him... I think if Michael Carrick was spanish he would be getting a lot more plaudits than the english fans give him, and he is by far one of the most consistent players for this past campaign and should be our most improved if not our best player of the season, he's so calm on the ball and its a shame England is taking the same old Lampard and Gerrard combination who have failed everytime to the Euros, what abt Carrick and Liam Britton... Anyways Shinji Kagawa is a better player than Hazard he has shown that in Germany + he's cheaper, let's get Giroud also and Debuchy!!!

Posted by oneEyedKiwi on 05/29/2012

Biggest disappointment: Fergie adopting a cautious (negative) approach to big games instead of trusting the attacking style that's served us well.
Missed Opportunity: Not strengthening the midfield forthe last few years with quality experienced creative players.
Biggest risk: Contuining to rely on a defence which is ageing and will cost us with more leaking goals. Both backs need to be changed and not convinced Johny Evans is of enough quality to be a good consistent central defender

Posted by Ski on 05/29/2012

Surely Scholes was the signing of the season. United were rubbish until he came back. Jones, Welbeck, Cleverley meanwhile are rubbish and always will be.

Posted by Red'58 on 05/30/2012

I'm sorry but some of you are not true fans, it is not our right to win the league every year, surely you can appreciate a good year doesn't always mean trophies otherwise why do the other 91 league clubs fans bother supporting their team, maybe you need a dose of when I started following us 45 years ago to appreciate just what the recent years mean, otherwise go & support City or Chelsea you spoilt brats.
Keep the Red flag flying high. Oh and Ski, Jones ,Wellbeck & Cleverly are all rubbish well god help the future of the national team & United. Gees what a load of tripe!!!!

Posted by Eddie G. on 05/30/2012

Goal of the season
Cisse's goal against Chelski

Signing of the season
De Gea, closely followed by Jones

Player of the season
Antonio Valencia. He was a constant thorn in the side of defenses.

Young player of the season
Welbeck. Good runs, decent finishing.

Biggest disappointment
I could have won US$500 had QPR kept it at 2-1!!!

Most Improved
Jonny Evans. After the 1-6 debacle, he pulled up his socks and turned in great defensive performances.

Whatever happened to…?
Kerry Katona. Jeez.

Pillock of the season
Carlos "I No Warm Up Boss" Tevez

Missed opportunity of the season
Kenny's dismissal. Now LFC will not continue to languish in mediocrity. So sad.

Most refreshing surprise of the season
Wazza not getting a single book in EPL games until the last few matches.

Posted by Eddie G. on 05/30/2012

Goal of the season
Cisse's goal against Chelski

Signing of the season
De Gea, closely followed by Jones

Player of the season
Antonio Valencia. He was a constant thorn in the side of defenses.

Young player of the season
Welbeck. Good runs, decent finishing.

Biggest disappointment
I could have won US$500 had QPR kept it at 2-1!!!

Most Improved
Jonny Evans. After the 1-6 debacle, he pulled up his socks and turned in great defensive performances.

Whatever happened to…?
Kerry Katona. Jeez.

Pillock of the season
Carlos "I No Warm Up Boss" Tevez

Missed opportunity of the season
Kenny's dismissal. Now LFC will not continue to languish in mediocrity. So sad.

Most refreshing surprise of the season
Wazza not getting a single book in EPL games until the last few matches.

Posted by Jeff on 05/30/2012

as a united fan i disagree with your choices. jones was brilliant but faded badly after december which if i remember, was around the same time that comparisons with duncan edwards first surfaced). has a lot to learn and seems to have regressed defensively. none of young, jones, and de gea were better signings than the other but i would think de gea played a very important role after lindegaard got injured. signing of the season was bringing scholes out of retirement, he was incredibly influential in midfield.

valencia is player of the season for me. the most consistent and biggest attacking threat all season. rooney for all his goals (many of which were penalties) went missing for large periods of every match and seems to have lost his all-action style.

welbeck hasnt done enough to be considered a future first team striker. plenty of enthusiasm but really isnt productive. not the fastest strongest nor the best touch or finishing. a neither here nor there striker. he needs to improve.

Posted by oscar on 05/30/2012

lousy man award : SAF (sir alex ferguson).
a wise man said " words come out define a man". so comment like this " never in my life, m.u underdog" "city behind 100 years history" define saf very LOUSY indeed. dont forget saf, u represent m.u. noisy sometime is good. but lousy? WORST.

Posted by Kripa on 05/30/2012

Hi Mark,

Got to disagree with Jones as Signing of the Season. De Gea deserved that, taking an excellent goalkeeper's mantle is something nearly impossible for a young player to do. We spend years finding a replacement for Schmeichel, gaining more flops than decent ones, and this time we got two right out of the box.

Keane's comments criticizing Jones for saying that he (Jones) had nothing to prove is spot on. The boy had talent but if he did not change his mentality he'll never advance to be a great player.

Most improved should be Jonny Evans. I would say that he's now first choice to partner either Vidic or Rio.

Biggest disappointment would be our inability to control the central midfield. It's our weak point this year, although we have some future talents, the current ones are not good enough, with Fletcher ill (get well soon please) we had to get Scholes back from retirement. The next in line was not good enough yet, while we should have at least 3-4 with almost equal ability.

Posted by Aaron Mark Hendrix on 05/30/2012

Just read that Hazard signed for Chelsea,or has chosen Chelsea etc.I mean,he aint the next Maradona for sure,but still,one of the hottest properties in European football has once again not joined United.Dont get me wrong,I dont think that every top player dreams of playing for us,but the point here is that we're losing out to City & Chelsea,who,without trying to be rude,arent even in our league when it comes to prestige and history,or success for that matter.Makes you wonder then why they didnt choose us.Make no mistake,the last "big name" player we signed was Berba,and ever since no one has looked our way twice.A sign of us becoming like Arsenal,who tend to develop players instead of buying the big name proven ones due to not wanting to pay big money.This isnt bad,but,still not good.I honestly dont see us being up there in terms os signing top drawer players anymore,or even higly rated ones for that matter.We'll always be there or there abouts,but u have to wonder if we'll win much...

Posted by Aaron Mark Hendrix on 05/30/2012

Coz if this trend goes on,we'll fast become like Liverpool,talking only about past ( and a sprinkling of current) glories.Still think we'll be up there challenging (unlike them) but it's worrying if you ask me.A prem title or two might change that notion of course,but with City able to pay anything to anyone the want,and with Chelsea still being able to pay big salaries(they kinda stopped throwing their money about for signings but still pay way above market)we have to admit that without the money,we'll be left behind.Do we have that kinda money?I believe so,there must be somewhere no?But yet,we're lookin about for bargains and promising players etc.City will continue to spend as they did(and u wouldnt blame them either) and with Real Madrid,Barcelona and both Milan Giants still with money to spare,I fear for us really.Hopefully my fears are unwarranted,but honestly speaking,it is a justifiable worry,what happened to the scoursers could yet happen to us if left unchecked

Posted by Mario on 05/30/2012

KD pillock of the year?!.. Sometimes ManU are so jealous of Liverpool that have to say the stupidest things.

Terry maybe (Especially based on form)
Balotelli (Everything he does)
Tevez ?!
The FA hiring Hodgson !!

But you had to drop low and have a go at Liverpool. Grow up for once in your life ManU fans . Grow up

Posted by Se7en on 05/30/2012


KD pillock of the year?!.. Sometimes ManU are so jealous of Liverpool that have to say the stupidest things.

Terry maybe (Especially based on form)
Balotelli (Everything he does)
Tevez ?!
The FA hiring Hodgson !!

But you had to drop low and have a go at Liverpool. Grow up for once in your life ManU fans . Grow up

Well, who HASN'T had a go at Liverpool, with such a pillock for a gaffer?

Posted by Canadared on 05/30/2012

Its funny that no matter how much success your club has you still feel the need to mention Liverpool in almost every Blog you write. This speaks Volumes about you and Manure supporters. Still filled with Jealousy and bile...its not Liverpools fault that Manure were absolute shit for so many years before whiskey nose took over. Liverpool know their history and success for 2 decades in the 70's and 80s so we dont need to knock down Manure at every opportunity. Show some class for have had enormous success over the past 2 decades, wear it with dignity. Muppet!!

Pillock of the Season - Evra for being an out and out Liar. Second place the FA - for believing verything this tw*t said without any evdince from TV or teammates.

Posted by Maxitaxi on 05/30/2012

Re Hazard, I remember Gordon McQueen once said that 99% of players want to play for United and the other 1% are liars.

Sad to think that comment is now dated and that players only want the huge salaries or use the EPL as a stepping stone to Real Madrid or Barca.

I think there is more going on with the Glaziers than is being let on, although United have never really spent big on more than one or two players a season, if that.

The treatment of Berbatov was embarrasing and he really must have pissed off SAF to be left on the bench so often. I sometimes think Sir Alex does cut his nose to spite his face, like dropping Rooney because he went out for dinner two days before the Blackburn at home game, which might have saved us three points if he'd been playing.

Mario, I think the KD pillock of the year is in response to his handling of the Suarez affair so don't get so uptight, I assure you no ManU fan is jealous of Liverpool, past, present or future.

Posted by pom to bad on 05/30/2012

best player is valencia, i realy luv d guy.

Posted by baker on 05/31/2012

How can you have Phil jones as signing of the season but not young player of the year and vice versa for DDG since he was also signed this year. That is a contradiction. If ddg was young player of the year you are stating he had a better season than jones therefore should be signing of the season. Same as for breakthrough. Cleverly has hardly broken into a guaranted start whereas DDC most definitely has.

Posted by simple g on 05/31/2012

well i think players now snubing m u for other clubs is something to worry about.Imagine the may we lose out on nasri an sneider,i strongly think if one of them has is with us we would ve had a diferent season given the performance of each player for their respective club.I strongly felt we need an african defensive mildifider given d best in the epl now are african eg mikel song tiote etc an a creative mildifider who has a good vision of the ball not modric whose asist is nothin 2 write home.when this is done,i see rooney playin upfront not in midfield as we recently saw him play and the likes of giggs and fedinand should give way for young player but my fear is if the glaziers family are ready to splash the cash but until then i see united been like arsenal who can only be a contender but will never raise the trophy.

Posted by Carl on 05/31/2012

From a (respectful) City fan re: Mark's point above about Hazard . . .

If I'm a young star, Utd may be an issue for me because I don't know how long SAF has. What if he retires during my tenure and I end up with a manager I detest, or who doesn't play me? I think SAF owes Utd a public step-down commitment date; it's much better for the club. A vague "three years" isn't good enough. Then Utd can start planning the transition carefully and do an excellent job on the search, which is important given the size of the shoes to fill.

I know SAF must know this, so why hasn't he done it? Either (a) it's coming very soon or (b) he's being pretty selfish.

Posted by Darlington on 05/31/2012

Man United fans should not 4get that we lost d trophy on goals difference and nt points. D lads deserve some kudos.

Posted by David Smith on 06/01/2012

Darlington, no one's forgetting we lost the title to Citeh on goal difference. United fans won't ever forget we lost this title on goal difference. The lads don't deserve kudos either. They absolutely bottled it in April and those at the club, including Fergie, need to be called on it. What's been achieved the past 20 years doesn't make them immune from criticism or examination. There are those on here who feel you're a bandwagon fan or just plain ungrateful if you don't have a happy face on. Bollocks. Those people, as usual, are missing the point. Both European adventures and our Carling Cup exit were utter embarrassments and painfully highlighted United's arrogance and lack of mental focus. Throwing away an 8 point lead in April is criminal, as was losing a two goal lead at home to Everton, but the gutless and cowardly performance at Leastlands was something I never thought I'd see from Fergie's United. This is our most important summer in 20 years. Time will tell if we got it right.

Posted by FORCA BLUES!! on 06/01/2012

Pillock of the season was Jones.He caused those goals against Benfica and Basel at Old Trafford which United should have won easily but didn't.Result:dumped out of European Cup

Posted by Ben on 06/01/2012

I agree with Marvin, Maxitaxi and PD. We must highly appreciate SAF but my earlier cry was Barbatov & Kussak in order not to lose the cup.
It it time to shop for Guardiola and SAF retires while he is still a legend for Man U. And or keep Barbatov and let him play regularly. Again is my cry.
Thank you for listening this time.

Posted by Jonathan Oha on 06/02/2012

DDG is no doubt the signing of the season.valencia earns the most instrumental.paul scholes return was a huge blessing.jonny deserves some kudos.Rooney has no equal.welbeck is a talent.

Posted by Mikeel on 06/02/2012

I thank all man.u fans all over d world we still remain first in epl but SAF should try at least sign 2 or 3 big player one defender two midfilder.

Posted by Toks on 06/02/2012

Kudos to this guys. David De Gea is a revelation. Not minding we were shipped out of Europe. Given time this young lads we develop. Berbatov is a good player but doesn't fit in to United's style of play. Pity the guy. Young has done extremely fine. SAF has no blame aside for his style of play @ Etihad. I strongly believe we can't win the league every year bcos it's not our birth right to do so and also believe that players have choice in choosing teams they want to play for not necessarily playing for United. Kagawa is suited for United than Hazard in my opinion and believe me stars don't win the league(Molde in Norwegian league as an e.g). So United will surely bounce back.

Posted by James LeFrois on 06/02/2012

I disagree with people not absolving SAF of blame. His team selections and tactics on several occasions left a lot to be desired (at Liverpool, both Citi games, at Wigan). Central midfield has been an issue for 4 years, yet no world class talent has come in during that time. Carrick, Anderson, et al may be good enough for Everton, Villa, so on but not United. That being said, he got flack for signing de Gea, but that move paid off and will for the next decade. The biggest disappointment on this team is a lack of leadership. If players like Vida and Fletch were healthy, blowing an 8 point lead with 6 games to go would never have happened. Evra, Rooney, even Giggs and Scholes, despite their great play, are not the greatest leaders. This is a crucial summer for United. They need 2-4 quality signings in center midfield and defense. With those signings, United is in the fray for domesitc and European glory. Without them, we could be battling for 3rd behind City or Chelsea.

Posted by RVN on 06/05/2012


Posted by RVN on 06/05/2012


Posted by zubair on 06/06/2012

How can Jones get signing of the season yet De Gea gets young player of the season? Both signed in the same transfer window, so logically, if you give De Gea young player of the season that means he had a better season that Jones therefore, that makes him the better signing?

Posted by Aman on 07/18/2012

Biggest disappointment, i would'nt say Europe was as big of a disappointment as getting dismantled at home by our cash rich neighbours. Agreed with the TMUS award, i saw that match alone at home, superstitious like hell. More gut wrenching was the when i shifted from my TV on my laptop where i was streaming the City match, all ready for the Whoop and victory run out of my house. Never ever want to experience that again. However, i have been A United fan since 1992 and since then the team has always made me respect them more year on year. Especially this year finishing with the same points was a feat.

  Post your comment
Email Address:
characters left