Player Ratings: Manchester United
With seconds to go at Eastlands, it appeared as though a Manchester United squad described by many as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's less impressive would prove their doubters wrong and win the Premier League title. It was not to be though - here Richard Jolly examines the individual performances of the players who lost the championship in agonising circumstances this season.
Wayne Rooney: 8.5
His goal tally was outstanding and, for much of Sunday, it seemed his 34th of the campaign had won the title. Rooney began the season at a canter, endured an autumn drought, partly because he dropped into midfield when United were struggling, and found his scoring boots again in an extended purple patch that began in December. To his credit, plenty of his goals came against blue-chip opponents, but sometimes scoring masked poorer performances. Still, it is not a bad problem to have.
Paul Scholes: 8.5
The comeback of the season. Scholes returned from retirement, if anything, better than before, passing the ball with meticulous accuracy, controlling games with practised assurance. Despite only beginning in January, it was his most prolific campaign for five years while, as the fightback against Chelsea showed, the 37-year-old can still exert a catalytic effect against elite opponents.
Antonio Valencia: 8.5
The best out-and-out right winger in the country. Valencia's scorching runs and reliable delivery from the flank have been a feature of United's play in the last six months. Few create more goals and the Ecuadorian has started to chip in with more. His brilliant strike at Blackburn was shaping up to be one of the moments where the title was won; instead, his omission against Manchester City could be one of the reasons where it was lost.
Michael Carrick: 8
Whether or not it is the finest of his six seasons in Manchester, it certainly represents a fine response. Twelve months ago, Carrick was a regular target of fans' ire. Plenty were bemused that Sir Alex Ferguson had given him an extended contract. This year, however, it has certainly been justified. Sidelined at the start of the campaign, he has been the cornerstone of the midfield since returning to the starting line-up in November.
Ryan Giggs: 7.5
Reached the 900-game landmark in wonderful fashion, scoring the 90th-minute winner against Norwich as he started 2012 with a series of influential performances. Wins against Arsenal and Liverpool owed much to the 38-year-old's input. The final-day victory at Sunderland showed he remains an intelligent, elusive support act to a lone striker and, whether on the wing or in the centre of midfield, Giggs was a reliable provider of goals and, in timeless fashion, carried on going when younger players lost either fitness or speed.
Nemanja Vidic: 7.5
United can only wonder what might have been. The captain was limited to six league games, in which they conceded a mere two goals (one an incorrectly awarded penalty) before a cruciate ligament injury ended his campaign. Excellent when he played, especially in restoring a reputation for defensive dependability after the 6-1 thrashing by Manchester City when, to considerable surprise, he was not involved.
Danny Welbeck: 7.5
Should get more goals, but otherwise hard to criticise. Led the line with unselfish enthusiasm, combined well with Rooney and got on the scoresheet in major games; four of his 10 domestic goals came against top-five sides. In the process, he became the first homegrown striker to establish himself in the team since Mark Hughes.
Rio Ferdinand: 7
Only Patrice Evra and Rooney started more games, as Ferdinand's fragile frame was less of a problem than in previous years. Given the absence of Vidic, in particular, that was just as well. Not that his presence was appreciated in a troubled month, when United conceded three times to Basel and six to Manchester City in games when Ferdinand was especially poor. However, he fared far better in a fine second half of the season, teaming up well with Jonny Evans.
Phil Jones: 7
Compared to Duncan Edwards and Franco Baresi at times, omitted for Rafael at others, it has been a year of extremes for the former Blackburn man. His barnstorming breaks from deep have often been thrilling and he seems to possess both the mentality and the ability to play for United but a sense of adventure was one reason he sometimes seemed susceptible defensively.
One of the few United players who fared better in the first half of the campaign. Nani impressed in United's electrifying start and chipped in with important assists in autumn. By the end of the year, however, Valencia had claimed his preferred right-wing spot and the decision to pick the Portuguese in the title decider against Manchester City backfired. But eight goals and 10 assists in the league are indications that there are few more productive wingers.
Ashley Young: 7
Few have started a career at Old Trafford better than Young, who began with a flurry of goals and assists. If he struggled to maintain such standards, a match-winning double at Tottenham was a crucial contribution. But he wasn't consistent enough in the intervening period, while a habit of going to ground too easily may have won his side penalties this season but came at a cost to his reputation.
Patrice Evra: 6.5
A year that is more likely to be remembered for the Luis Suarez affair rather than his left-back play. Nevertheless, if Evra's form suffered when he was in the eye of the storm - and he was particularly poor in the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City - it improved in the closing months of the campaign. An outstanding display at Arsenal was probably his high point.
Jonny Evans: 6.5
A year of extreme highs and lows. Ferguson described Evans as the best defender in the country, but he had an abject first half of the season, struggling against opponents as different as Manchester City and Crystal Palace, before staging a dramatic improvement. Performances against Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham must rank among the best in his United career, but a sudden relapse - he floundered against both Wigan and Everton - cost his side dearly.
Javier Hernandez: 6.5
Repeating his superb debut season at Old Trafford was always going to be difficult and it proved beyond the Mexican. Concussed on United's pre-season tour and sidelined in December, when he had started scoring, misfortune has been a theme of his year. But he chipped in with some important goals in autumn, including an equaliser at Liverpool and a winner at Everton when few others were finding the net, and he capped the comeback at Chelsea.
Anders Lindegaard: 6.5
He must wonder what might have been. The Dane had just displaced De Gea as first-choice goalkeeper when an ill-timed ankle injury ended his season. He only lost once in United colours, and was blameless in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle, and, after a series of rather easy clean sheets, had not looked overawed when selected away at Manchester City and Arsenal.
A pivotal player at the start of the season and a forgotten figure by the end of it. Anderson's August combination with Tom Cleverley, when he was the only defensively-minded member of a very attacking midfield, was a cause of United's flying start. But this was another injury-hit season for the Brazilian and, besides losing fitness, he fell from favour after being identified as one of the greatest culprits in the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Tom Cleverley: 6
Outstanding in August, injured and ineffective thereafter. Cleverley was overhyped after his dramatic start to life as a first-teamer at Old Trafford but he gave the season impetus and offered a glimpse of invention in a midfield without Scholes. Whether he can play as one of a central-midfield duo, or indeed if he can hold down a regular place, may become clearer next season.
Darren Fletcher: 6
For the second successive season, ulcerative colitis disrupted Fletcher's year, the stomach problem meaning his campaign ended after November's draw with Benfica. His solidity was missed in United's troubled April and, while his lone goal came in the derby demolition at City's hands, his influence was felt more as a wounded side ground out results in the following month.
Chris Smalling: 6
A stop-start year in which he briefly appeared the first-choice right-back for both club and country but ended with his place in both pecking orders rather more uncertain. While Smalling scored against both Chelsea and, in the Community Shield, Manchester City, his season may be recalled for the goal he could not prevent, when he was beaten by Vincent Kompany for the header that played a large part in deciding the title.
Dimitar Berbatov: 5
The writing was on the wall when Berbatov was not even named among the substitutes for last season's Champions League final and the journey from the Premier League's joint top scorer to United's fourth-choice striker was completed swiftly and, in many respects, sadly. He was only granted five league starts, which was still enough to bring seven goals, but an anaemic display at Newcastle curtailed his comeback. His year may be remembered for the concession of a penalty in the defeat to Blackburn.
David de Gea: 5
Displayed greater assurance after his February recall and has made some outstanding saves but, while teething troubles were only to be expected, De Gea's errors hurt United in four competitions. Their exits from the FA Cup and Champions League can be traced back to mistakes against Liverpool and Basel respectively while a nervy display, which reached its nadir when Grant Hanley headed Blackburn's late winner, was a prime cause of the most avoidable of United's five league defeats.
Rafael da Silva: 4
The warning signs were flashing long before a calamitous performance against Everton cost Rafael his place and contributed to United losing their title. The Brazilian's slipshod attitude to defending had already been exposed by Athletic Bilbao and even, in a 5-0 win, by Wolves' Matt Jarvis. With Jones and Smalling converted to play right-back, improvement is required if he is to feature more often next year.
Fabio da Silva: 4
Ended the 2010-11 season as United's right-back in the Champions League final but ends this having made two league starts and been told he will be sent out on loan. Awful performances against Basel and Crystal Palace were particular low points.
Michael Owen: 4
Three goals in three starts for the Carling Cup specialist. Sadly, Owen became irrelevant in other competitions and has not featured since suffering a thigh injury in November. His vow to score an important goal before the end of the campaign became wishful thinking. Granted an extended deal 12 months ago, he did not justify it and was duly released.
Ji-Sung Park: 4
Scored against Arsenal and Liverpool, which may suggest his reputation as a big-game specialist was secured. Yet a dreadful display against Manchester City showed otherwise: as he has done all season, Park looked off the pace. He struggled in particular when, as he often did, Ferguson picked him in the centre of midfield, where he floundered in December's defeat to Blackburn. His last three games of the season were defeats, which does not feel a coincidence.
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