United's Player of the Month candidates revealed
The four candidates for Manchester United's Player-of-the-Month award for March have been revealed.
Because domestic and European football has been curtailed until at least early April due to the coronavirus pandemic, United wrapped up the third month of 2020 earlier than expected. Still, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side managed to extend our unbeaten run across all competitions to 11 matches, winning three of the four fixtures and conceding just once.
There were many fine performers, with nine different scorers contributing to our 11 goals, and three clean sheets emphasising the side's defensive efforts.
The quartet that made our final shortlist are Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo, Harry Maguire and Fred, though there was also strong competition from Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay.
HOW TO VOTE
The Player-of-the-Month poll is now open on our Official App, which is free to download.
Be quick to cast your vote, with the poll set to close on Saturday, when the winner will be announced.
A LOOK AT THE CONTENDERS
Our January signing has carried on the rich vein of form that enabled him to win February's award, racking up another list of memorable personal highlights. He kicked March off with a stunning strike from distance at Goodison Park to draw the Reds level against Everton – his first United goal from open play – and was at the heart of an excellent first-half performance that many onlookers described as our best 45 minutes so far this season. Against Manchester City, his quick-thinking, inch-perfect chipped free-kick to Anthony Martial helped break the deadlock in a typically tight Manchester derby, and he finished the month off with another assist – setting up Odion Ighalo's stunner against LASK with a smart pass from the outside of his right foot. It seems there's never a dull moment when this creative wizard is on the pitch.
What an impact the Nigerian striker has made! The 30-year-old has started three games for the Reds since joining from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua on loan, and has scored in every one of them. In March, his double at Derby helped send United into the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals, and then a thunderous shot in Linz began our comprehensive 5-0 victory over LASK in the first leg of the Europa League last-16 tie. Interestingly, all three of those efforts came via his less favoured left foot. Odion is still waiting for his first Premier League goal – he came agonisingly close to the winner in his short cameo against Everton – but he was superb when coming off the bench in the final minutes of the Manchester derby, providing a strong reference point for United high up the field and showing remarkable composure in a pressurised situation. Ighalo has already established himself as a cult hero with the United faithful.
Ighalo scores twice against Derby County Video
Ighalo scores twice against Derby County
Everyone's talking about Odion Ighalo's two-goal display against Derby, but he could have scored three! Check him out...
The England international has been a reliable force at the back for the Reds all season but, since acquiring the captain's armband, he's gone from strength to strength. Harry's month began with an awe-inspiring display of aerial dominance at Goodison, where he made an incredible 15 clearances, including 13 in a resolute second-half performance where United came under serious pressure from the Toffees. Maguire missed the FA Cup trip to Derby after rolling his ankle, but was back to lead the Reds, just three days later, against Manchester City. He then helped steward the team to a third consecutive clean-sheet – and a ninth in 11 games – in Austria, against LASK, where his leadership could be clearly heard out on the pitch due to the game being played behind closed doors. His nomination is well earned, given United's huge defensive improvement in the last couple of months.
The biggest accolade you can give January's Player of the Month is that his consistently excellent form is no longer something that fans devote much time to analysing – Fred is simply an ever-present in the side, whose work-rate and contribution cannot be questioned. But while a blur of energy and industry is how you think of him, there's always plenty of Brazilian flair on show too. He ran more than anyone else on the pitch in the derby win against Manchester City, and still found time to nutmeg Oleksandr Zinchenko. He also should have had a penalty when appearing to be tripped inside the penalty area by Nicolas Otamendi. Then, against LASK, he delivered a superb, threaded through-ball for Juan Mata that had the purists purring, and claimed another assist for Andreas Pereira's long-ranger. The man from Belo Horizonte is now one of the first names on Solskjaer's team sheet, and his instinctive link-up with Fernandes in midfield has added yet another dimension to his game.
Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App now.