Manchester United's Footballer of the Year faces tough battle after Ralf Rangnick appointment

In a year of such widely fluctuating fortunes, no player immediately stands out to win Manchester United’s Footballer of the Year award.

In a reflection of the team’s performances in general under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, inconsistency has been a killer and no player has been able to carry on their form from last season into the current campaign, or those who have performed well this season didn’t in the previous one or weren’t even at Old Trafford – in the case of Cristiano Ronaldo.

For Reach’s annual Fans’ Footballer of the Year awards, MEN Sport has managed to whittle down to four nominees for the award: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, David de Gea and Luke Shaw.

None of them have managed to sustain their performances levels throughout the entire year but all certainly had great to world-class spells.

Greenwood continues to impress and improve and it’s easy to forget he is still just 20 years old, but a bout of Covid-19 halted his momentum and his numbers haven’t been quite as high as hoped.

Bruno Fernandes, on the other hand, has spectacular stats in front of goal but the number of risks he takes in games becomes more frustrating when things don’t go to plan, with his influence on the team waning this season with the arrival of Ronaldo.

De Gea endured a difficult year last season and looked to have lost his spot to Dean Henderson, especially after his calamitous Europa League final shootout display.

But Henderson being hit by coronavirus before the new season began opened the door once more for the Spaniard and it’s hard to deny that he has been brilliant since. He has even started saving penalties!

Yet his form earlier in the year rules him out in my mind which is why my vote for United’s Footballer of the Year has to go to Shaw.

Granted, he has perhaps been the worst of the lot this season as his form has fallen off a cliff but he was by far the best prior to that.

At the start of last season, it looked as though his spot in the side might be on the line with the arrival of Alex Telles, but that competition gave him the impetus to step up his game instead.

The 26-year-old went on to enjoy his best season in United shirt by far as he improved going forward so much that it papered over the cracks of the team’s issues on the flanks.

He may have only grabbed six assists and a single goal, but that doesn’t paint the picture of the influence he had further up the pitch. Shaw was always on the front foot and involved in most attacks, either by making smart runs or being tidy in possession.

What’s more impressive is that he did all this while remaining solid defensively, too, with United’s left side largely secure thanks to him and Harry Maguire, with the faltering Aaron Wan-Bissaka being the weak point on the opposite flank.

It shouldn’t go unmentioned that Shaw continued that fine form into Euro 2020, too, as he was incredible in England’s run to the final, scoring in the defeat to Italy and laying on three goals for his teammates.

His dip in performances this season aren’t all his fault, either, as we’ve seen how fatigue coming out of a hectic summer has impacted several players and it’s hard to shine as a defender in a team that has been playing as badly as United have been, so he still gets my vote.

That being said, he may find it difficult getting back into the United team now Ralf Rangnick is at the helm.

As was eventually to his downfall, Solskjaer stuck with the players he trusted to a fault, even if their performances levels warranted dropping. Shaw, like Wan-Bissaka, Maguire and others, knew their spots in the side were secure regardless and that impetus he got when Telles was signed faded away.

Now, however, a new man is in charge and with Shaw currently sidelined as he recovers from a head injury, Telles has finally been given a sustained stint in the side and has impressed.

The Brazilian may not be as secure at the back as his colleague, but he is even more focused on attack. His pace and wicked delivery, in open play and at setpieces, make him a more dangerous asset on the flanks and United have looked more threatening with him in the side.

Telles’ style suits Rangnick to the ground and now it’s up to Shaw to win his spot back, which may prove to be easier said than done.

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