Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Bruno Fernandes with the trophy in 2020

Player of the Year: The leading candidates

Saturday 15 May 2021 08:00

A unique campaign which only kicked off in September is already nearing its conclusion and, as Manchester United bid to round off this term’s obvious collective improvements by lifting the Europa League trophy on Wednesday 26 May, it’s also the time of year when individual accolades are awarded.

None carry more weight within Old Trafford than the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, presented this season by adidas football. Decreed by a supporters’ vote, the statuette of United’s legendary former manager acknowledges the player whose contribution to the campaign has been worthy of special recognition. Hence the long list of stellar names to have lifted the award down the years.

Nobody has ever won the honour more than current Reds goalkeeper David De Gea, whose quartet of successes between 2014 and 2018 showcase one of the outstanding sustained on-field contributions in United’s history. Closest to De Gea in the all-time rankings is Cristiano Ronaldo, a three-time winner between 2004 and 2008, and the only other player to lift the award more than twice.

Last term, the transformative efforts of Bruno Fernandes were recognised by supporters as the season’s outstanding contribution, making him just the second Portuguese winner and only the eighth player to scoop the award in his first season at the club. After another sterling effort in 2020/21, the Reds’ no.18 will now be looking to emulate his international colleague Cristiano by repeating the feat this time around and becoming just the ninth player to retain the honour.

Bruno faces stern competition within Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, however, with a spate of outstanding performers raising their levels during the course of the campaign and propelling the Reds’ unmistakeable improvement, so Fernandes is by no means guaranteed to repeat last term’s success this time around.

As ever, fans can vote for any player who has represented United’s first team in 2020/21 and is currently at the club but ahead of the poll closing this Sunday at 23:59 BST, we’ve examined the claims and campaigns of these eight Reds. 

BRUNO FERNANDES

Our Portuguese playmaker required just half a season at Old Trafford to win the 2019/20 award, and his efforts in 2020/21 place him at the forefront of the possible winners this time around. Top of the Reds’ goals and assists charts (28 and 17 respectively in all competitions), a vocal leader and talismanic presence in the side, Fernandes has been justifiably touted as a contender for the divisional awards, while he’s also hoovered up a total of four Player of the Month trophies – two in-house and two across the division.

HARRY MAGUIRE

A virtually ever-present figure in the heart of United’s defence, Harry has built on a solid first season at Old Trafford and become a linchpin in his second. A metronomically consistent presence who reads the game astutely and orchestrates key communication throughout the team, it’s little wonder that the England international has grown even further into the Reds’ captaincy in 2020/21, playing a starring role in a defence that has conceded fewer Premier League goals than any team bar the champions.

SCOTT McTOMINAY

Year on year, the Scotland international has evolved into a midfield mainstay at Old Trafford, and 2020/21 represents his finest campaign to date. With more appearances and more goals than ever before, the Reds’ no.39 has once again amped up his contribution, thanks in no small part to his unbelievable levels of fitness and athleticism, alongside an unflappable mentality in the midfield minefield. A key part of Ole’s squad and a man for any occasion.

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MARCUS RASHFORD

The England star has been making front-page headlines for the last couple of years, but his on-field exploits have continued unabated in tandem with his philanthropy. For the second straight season, Marcus passed the 20-goal marker (while also hitting double figures for assists) despite being used in a wide-left role and invariably shrugging off a wide array of knocks to make himself available for his boyhood club. A hero in the truest sense, on and off the field.

LUKE SHAW

Having won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2018/19, the left-back is a strong contender to wrest the trophy back from Bruno Fernandes this time around. Luke’s seventh season at Old Trafford has been revelatory, yielding more appearances than any since his arrival, while his form defensively and offensively has been flawless. To boot, only Rashford and Fernandes have more assists than the unstoppable defender.

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AARON WAN-BISSAKA

Last year, a splendid first term’s work in Manchester ticked plenty of boxes for the former Crystal Palace defender, but AWB insisted that he was determined to add more in attack this time around. Sure enough, while maintaining a place near the head of the Premier League’s tackling charts, the full-back has been a markedly more menacing presence at the other end of the field this season, building a varied attacking arsenal and providing a perennial threat down the right flank.

EDINSON CAVANI

The experienced Uruguayan has proved a revelation at Old Trafford since signing on a free transfer in October, scoring 15 goals in all competitions and enshrining himself as a firm fans' favourite. After a decade banging goals in for Napoli and PSG, we always knew what a threat Edi could be to our opponents, but he's impressed all with his attitude and work rate off the pitch. He's not been bad on it, either, and played an integral part in the Reds' Europa League semi-final success over Roma, becoming the first Red since Tommy Taylor to net twice in each leg of a European last-four tie.

MASON GREENWOOD

One of the club's most exciting prospects in living memory, Mason swept on to the scene with 17 goals last term. It was a slower start this time around, but Greenwood has thrived in recent weeks, finding the net seven times since the last international break to become United's leading teenage scorer in the Premier League and surely give England boss Gareth Southgate something to consider ahead of this summer's European Championships.

You can vote for your Player of the Year until 23:59 BST on Sunday via our online form.

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