Signings’ Review : Manchester United 2016-17

An FA Cup triumph was not able to save Louis Van Gaal from getting the boot and Jose Mourinho was determined to do better after he had himself been sacked from Chelsea after a disastrous season. Manchester United needed a major overhaul in several areas if they had to challenge for the league title otherwise it would have been another average season with no Champions League football.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

ibrahimovic1 (The Telegraph)

(Photo Source : The Telegraph)

They said that he was too old and considering that this man is a 35 year old, maybe they were correct but he proved that age is just a number, nothing else. Jose Mourinho realised that the dressing room needed a personality whom all the players could look up to and be inspired by, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his student from Inter Milan was the man to do so.

The pre-season games were just a glimpse of what Manchester United fans were going to see from the Swede, as he started his goal count with a stunning bicycle kick against Galatasaray. Such a Zlatan thing to do.

As the season progressed, he scored goals with ease, and the Manchester United faithfuls believed that their title slump would finally be brought to an end by this man. But it was not to be.

In the mid season, it appeared as if Zlatan had lost his mojo, and the questions about his age and fitness began to prop up again, but he put an end to that debate with a spectacular brace against an in-form Southampton in the EFL Cup finals at Wembley. It appeared as if he had regained his golden touch and the goals began to come but he still could not do anything to get Manchester United out of 6th place in the Premier League table. However, Manchester United had been steadily progressing towards the final stages of the Europa League.

It was believed by many that the Europa League final in Stockholm, would be the perfect swansong for Zlatan to end his highly successful career in his home country with a trophy. Unfortunately, during the latter stages of the season he suffered a season ending knee injury. Manchester United still won the Europa League following a 2-0 win against Ajax in the final.

Many believed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s career to be over even before he joined the club. But 17 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League along with 11 goals and 5 assists outside the league are impressive stats, not only for a 35 year old but for any footballer.

Rating : 9/10

Eric Bailly

bailly (daily express)

(Photo Source : Daily Express)

Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have searched for a solid impermeable centre-back partnership. Louis Van Gaal was bent on using Daley Blind, originally a mid-fielder, as a centre back, alongside Chris Smalling, but it was evident that he was not very good in that position. Jose Mourinho hence bought Eric Bailly, the 22 year old from Villareal to partner Chris Smalling.

Bailly did not take long to adapt to the Premier League. It was obvious that he had the pace and strength to cope with difficulties posed by the league. He quickly cemented his starting position for the Red Devils. The defender was sidelined due to injury in November but quickly returned to the lineup in December.

The Ivorian had another spell on the sidelines in January and returned for the matches against Saint-Etienne in the Europa League. He also started in the EFL Cup final where Manchester United won 3-2.

With the injuries to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Marcos Rojo, Bailly was the only fit centre-back. He played almost 90 minutes in every game following their injuries. He was an integral part of the team’s success late in the season, but was unfortunate to get sent off in the Celta Vigo match, which prevented him from participating in the Europa League final.

Overall, Eric Bailly had a pretty fruitful first season at Manchester United. He has bailed out the team in several situations with his pace, strength, agility and a pass completion rate of 86%. Eric Bailly could well be the fearless defender Manchester United were searching for.

Rating : 7.5/10

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

mkhitaryan (Sky Sports)

(Photo Source : Sky Sports)

The crafty winger was added to the squad by Jose Mourinho to increase the creativity in the wings. And Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the perfect choice. Coming off a stellar season with Borussia Dortmund due to which he won the Bundesliga Player of the Season, he was expected to increase the number of goal scoring chances created by the team.

He made a disastrous start to his Manchester United career in the derby match against local rivals Manchester City in which he was subbed off during half-time. After that, he did not play for almost 3 months. Many pundits predicted that he was unhappy with the manager and would leave the club in the winter season, however he proved them wrong and gave some exceptional performances after returning to the starting 11, including scoring the only goal of the match against an in-form Tottenham Hotspurs team. His goal against Sunderland, a stunning scorpion kick, was voted as the Carling Goal of the Month for December.

He went from strength to strength and created some great chances for his team in the league. However his form in the Europa League was a class apart and justified his purchase. Not only did he rack up 6 goals in the knock-out stages of the Europa, but he also filled the void created by the absence of the charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to injury.

Mkhitaryan was a very valuable addition to the Manchester United wings and his pace and intelligence, both on and off the ball have made him a much loved character among the Manchester United faithful.

Rating : 8/10

Paul Pogba

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League

(Photo Source : Metro)

The most expensive player in the world signed for Manchester United from Juventus for a whopping £89.3 million. This has been the debate of the season : is a 23 year old worth so much money? Manchester United felt so. He was added to the ranks by Jose Mourinho to sort out his midfield.

Paul Pogba was known to be an attacking midfield general from his Juventus days but initially, the manager wanted him to play as a holding midfielder in a partnership with Ander Herrera, behind playmaker Juan Mata. Gradually, Mourinho allowed Pogba some freedom to drift off into the opposition half and help the team on the attacking front.

Pogba had a pretty decent season, however, his actions always came under scrutiny, as the question of his worth always popped up. He did not pay too much attention to all this and continued to perform. His goal against Swansea City from just outside the box was the highlight of his season.

Paul Pogba played an important role in Manchester United’s EFL Cup triumph and also in the Europa League, scoring the opening goal in the final against Ajax.

Overall, Paul Pogba scored 9 goals and provided 5 assists. He also had an impressive 85% pass completion rate. Paul Pogba is surely a great but expensive purchase, and considering his age of 24, he has yet to hit his peak, provided Jose Mourinho manages to bring out the best in him and make him the player he was at Juventus.

Rating : 8/10

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