Currently Manchester United sit in sixth position in the Premier League. They sit 18 points behind league leaders Chelsea and are in danger of finishing out of the top four spots and missing out on Champions League qualification. Since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, Manchester United have been league champions on 13 different occasions and have never finished outside the top three. The last time Manchester United finished outside the top four in England’s top division was in the 1990/1991 season, when they finished in sixth place.
Manchester United’s recent dominance in England coincided with the management tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson managed United from 1986 and won the aforementioned 13 Premier League titles including five of the last seven and one in his last season in 2012/2013. With Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United were expected to go through a period of adjustment with new manager David Moyes. Most observers did not expect United to win the Premier League title this season. However, they were expected to at least be one of the top four teams. They are currently 9 points behind fourth placed Manchester City, despite playing two more games.
Most of the squad that won last season’s title remain on this season’s Manchester United squad. Some of the United team have won five Premier League titles and have played in multiple Champions League finals. Yet the team has been very disappointing this season and has lost several league matches at Old Trafford to teams they should beat routinely. Their Champions League first leg match against Olympiakos ended in a 2-0 defeat and the team put forth a very lackluster performance. As a Liverpool supporter, watching Manchester United struggle this season has been almost as fun as watching Liverpool play well. There has been a lack of intensity in the United performances and at times they resemble a mid-table team instead of defending champions. With that in mind this article lists five of the most disappointing Manchester United players this season. I was tempted to list the entire team but the performances of these five players stood out more than any others.
5. Robin van Persie – Weekly wages 180,000 GBP
Robin van Persie was the main reason why Manchester United won the 2012/2013 Premier League title. Before last season began, van Persie was the subject of interest from both Manchester United and defending champions Manchester City. Van Persie chose United and was the catalyst of a title winning team. In 38 Premier League matches, van Persie found the net 26 times, but the 2013/2014 season has been a different matter for van Persie. Scoring goals has not been a problem as van Persie has netted 11 Premier League goals in 17 appearances this season. However, there has been some tension between van Persie and new manager David Moyes. At times there has been some confusion regarding why van Persie has not played, with United management claiming that the striker had been declared fit but van Persie insisting on taking extra time to regain fitness.
Things got worse in United’s 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos on the 25th of February. Van Persie put in a dismal display and his effort and commitment have come into question. There have been rumors that he may be sold in the summer and some have insisted he should be benched by David Moyes. Given his importance to the team and his performances from the previous season, there can be no doubt that van Persie belongs on any list of disappointing Manchester United players this season.
4. Marouane Fellaini – Weekly wages 125,000 GBP
After David Moyes took over managerial duties for Manchester United in the summer of 2013 he made one big summer signing. For a fee of 27.5 million GBP, Manchester United signed Marouane Fellaini from Moyes’ former club Everton. Fellaini is earning a reported 125,000 GBP a week and is the fourth most expensive United player in history. Only Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney earn more money than Fellaini this season. Unlike the other two players, Fellaini is not an automatic choice to start games for United. He has only appeared in 13 Premier League games this season and has recorded no goals and no assists.
The signing of Fellaini was a surprise as Manchester United were in need of a creative midfield player. This position had been a need for a few seasons with the decline of Paul Scholes. Fellaini is a versatile midfielder who views himself as a defensive midfielder and his appearances have yielded no creativity to the United midfield. The few times that Fellaini has played this season, he has appeared to be out of his depth. A major summer signing who has contributed nothing and has played less than half the matches in the league rightly belongs on this list.
3. Patrice Evra – Weekly Wages 90,000 GBP
Patrice Evra signed with Manchester United in 2006 and since he arrived at the club, he has established himself as an automatic first choice left back. He has won five Premier League titles since joining United and also one Champions League trophy in 2008. This season, Evra has appeared in 27 games and has contributed with one goal and three assists. Evra has been disappointing on the defensive end and has been caught out of position more than in previous seasons. United have lacked intensity and leadership this season and the only player who seems to care is Wayne Rooney. Some of the fault should fall on Evra, who has captained the team on several occasions and is the current vice captain. An indicator of how poor Evra has played this season is the number of left backs who have been linked to Manchester United. In the summer of 2013, it was Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao. Nearly every week Southampton left back Luke Shaw is linked with a summer switch to Old Trafford. Evra is 32 years old and some decline is to be expected. However, when every player who is left footed is rumored to be in line to replace you, your season can be deemed disappointing.
2. Shinji Kagawa – Weekly wages 80,000 GBP
When Manchester United signed Japanese attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund in 2012, they thought they were signing a creative play-maker with a good pedigree. Kagawa’s first season was underwhelming and he only appeared in 20 Premier League games, scoring six goals and providing three assists. Most players struggle in their first Premier League season and the expectations were that Kagawa would progress this season. Unfortunately this season has seen Kagawa play even worse. He has only played in ten Premier League games so far and has provided no goals or assists. To make matters worse, he seems to lack a position on the field and has often been deployed in wide areas by David Moyes. In the few matches he has played in Kagawa has looked tentative and uncomfortable in a wide area. Kagawa lost his place in the United team early in the season to Adnan Januzaj, who is only 19 years old and on a considerably lower salary. When a player who was signed for a reported 17 million GBP, and is only 26, cannot find a position on the field to play regularly, he is likely to be considered a waste of time.
1. Tom Cleverley – Weekly wages 40,000 GBP
There can be no question that Tom Cleverley belongs on the list of most disappointing players for Manchester United this season. As a Liverpool supporter, Cleverley is one of my favorite Manchester United players because he has no discernible qualities. Manchester United have had their central midfield criticized for a few years. Tom Cleverley was supposed to be the answer to their problems and the eventual successor to Paul Scholes. Instead, United have repeatedly talked Scholes out of retirement to help them win games. This season, Scholes seems to have retired for good and his absence has been glaring. Cleverley is not a defensive midfielder but is no threat going forward. He has one goal and no assists in 19 Premier League games this season. The previous season he played in 22 league games and provided two goals and assists apiece.
Despite his lack of creativity and goal scoring prowess, Cleverley has not only been a regular for Manchester United but he often finds himself selected for the England squad. Before England’s recent friendly against Denmark, over 17,000 supporters signed a petition against Cleverley being selected to the World Cup squad. Amidst all the detractors, Cleverley has three important people who value him as a player; David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson and England manager Roy Hodgson.