By Peter Hampshire
With a treble of sorts still on the cards for Mourinho’s men (Community Shield, League Cup, Europa League), the 29th Matt Busby Player of the Year Award is up for grabs with four players seemingly in the frame.
Dominating the event in recent years, 26-year-old Spanish stopper David De Gea has kept an impressive 13 clean sheets in 31 Premier League appearances.
Backed by Red Devils legend Gary Nevilleto be named captain should Wayne Rooney depart in the summer, De Gea is set to beat the feat of three awards claimed by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Integral to a successful Europa League campaign, in he has conceded just six in 11 matches on the road to a semi-final clash with his native Celta Vigo, the £17 million signing from Atletico Madrid has played a huge part in ensuring Mourinho’s inaugural season was not deemed a failure.
80% of the planet is covered by water. The rest is covered by @D_DeGea#DaveSaves. Good morning. pic.twitter.com/6b0YDX54BO
— Alternative name (@echenze) April 17, 2017
The Red Devils are 15/8 in Premier League betting to make the top four. While no doubt helped by De Gea’s steely resolve, this would have been unachievable without the goals of talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Proving doubters wrong with his inscrutable charm, Zlatan’s cruciate ligament injury may make his United career a short but sweet one. However, with 17 Premier League goals in 28 appearances, the Swede has single-handedly brought European football back to Old Trafford next season.
Proclaiming that he felt “overshadowed” by childhood friend Tony Flygare in youth football, the number 9 has reportedly turned down a £13 million offer from Mourinho to stay on despite his injury. Both accounts show the humility and honour of a man who has it all.
De Gea’s fellow Spaniard Ander Herrera has stormed into POTY contention as this year’s late-runner. With ten goals and 12 assists to his name, the former Real Zaragoza man has become the all-around midfielder that United lacked last season.
With the fourth highest appearance count in Mourinho’s unpredictable lineups this season, Herrera has clearly demonstrated an aptitude for the stringent box-to-box role he’s been asked to perform.
Mourinho hasn’t been satisfied with the entirety of his squad this season, but one man who came in for some particular stick from the manager earlier in the year has emerged as the main threat for United in recent weeks.
Marcus Rashford’s devastating pace and quick feet have been eye-catching since his goal scoring debut against Midtjylland but a consistent end-product of late has surely made him a front-runner. Vital goals against Anderlecht and Chelsea continued to write the 19-year-old into the Old Trafford record books.
A trophy-collecting end to the season for Rashford would see him become the only Englishman other than Wayne Rooney to collect the prestigious award since Teddy Sheringham in 2001.