Player of the Year: Six candidates with a case

Tuesday 16 May 2023 18:00

The voting for Manchester United's Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year trophy is always the subject of much debate.

This year is no different, with Erik ten Hag's first season in charge featuring a number of key contributors on the pitch.

The awards ceremony is being held on Monday 29 May, and you have the chance to make your opinion count by taking part in our poll here.

In the meantime, our journalists discuss some of the leading candidates and offer a few pointers as you prepare to vote.

Casemiro sparked undoubtedly one of the season's most memorable celebrations with this goal against Chelsea.

Adam Bostock

From Madrid to Manchester, Casemiro brought his majesty into our midfield after a late summer transfer that was questioned by some of our critics in the media - okay, mainly Graeme Souness.

The Liverpool legend had the audacity to claim our new no.18 “has never been a great player”, despite the Brazilian’s breathtaking collection of club honours with Los Blancos. But by January, Casemiro had become such an important component of Erik ten Hag’s engine room – with his impeccable reading of the game, tenacity in breaking up opposition attacks and ball-distribution ability – that Souness was forced to backpedal and admit, “On reflection, he is exactly what Manchester United needed.”

Casemiro offers so much more than goals of course but the raw emotion of the last-gasp equaliser at Chelsea and another superb header in the Carabao Cup final win over Newcastle United are two of his highlights.

Mark Froggatt

Our four-time winner of the Sir Matt Busby award is almost always in the running, and particularly after one of his most consistent seasons at United so far. Yes, he’s had some challenging moments in recent weeks, but there’s no doubting De Gea's positive influence on the team this campaign.

Always fit, always ready, the 32-year-old has played in 54 of our 58 fixtures across all competitions and, as Erik ten Hag has pointed out, David has kept the most Premier League clean sheets this season (16).

The Golden Glove award will be won on Thursday if Newcastle United’s Nick Pope concedes (against Brighton & Hove Albion), but could there be a greater prize to follow? He’s definitely in the conversation.

Bruno Fernandes's most recent goal was a vital one as it earned three points against Aston Villa.

Mikey Partington

The running for this season’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award has been intensifying over recent weeks and one Red who should certainly be among the leading candidates is two-time winner Bruno Fernandes. The winner of our monthly performance accolades for March and April has been a near ever-present across this term and is yet to miss a single game in the campaign through injury or illness, even after picking up what looked a hefty knock in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion.

His case to win the award goes beyond the 26 goal involvements he’s racked up, as a player who has consistently shown his leadership – with and without the captain’s armband – and his versatility in 2022/23, having been asked to play in a variety of different roles, both in midfield and out on the flanks. Fernandes has had a brilliant campaign, and his consistent level of high performance maybe means he sometimes gets overlooked for the credit he regularly deserves.

Ever popular with the supporters, expect him to feature prominently in the voting.

Joe Nelson

Luke Shaw has transformed into a force of nature under Erik ten Hag this season, with his marauding runs forward down the left being complemented perfectly by strong physicality and precise defensive positioning.

Luke has been one of the best left-backs in the Premier League this term, contributing at both ends of the pitch, and he has also filled in at centre-back when called upon. A team player, and superb both on and off the ball, Shaw would be a worthy winner of the award this year.

Who doesn't love Lisandro Martinez's energy and commitment?

Joe Ganley

Defenders always seem to get a bum deal when the end-of-season prizes are dished out. Goals are football's currency and, understandably, we typically lionise those who can supply a regular source of the game's most ecstatic moments. But who knows? Maybe this year will buck the trend.

Because Lisandro Martinez's popularity among United fans is extraordinary. Marcus Rashford might be the overwhelming favourite for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, due to all those important goals, but Martinez has probably done as much as anyone to restore supporters' faith in the spirit of this United team.

Manchester is a hard, proud city and, despite coming from Argentina, Martinez embodies its attitude, and that stuff really matters to fans. We want to see fight, confidence and personality on the pitch, and from the home win over Liverpool onwards, our South American centre-back gave us that by the bucketload.

And what about his play on the ball? His passing is incredible, both long and short; his composure as steady as the queues for Greggs. It's been a brilliant first season for our no.6, who has added some long overdue bite to our first XI.

Watch one of the season's most memorable moments as Marcus Rashford scores at the Nou Camp.

Adam Marshall

There is a reason why Marcus Rashford is probably a strong favourite to win the award for the first time: the livewire forward has enjoyed surely his best-ever season since breaking into the United team.

From the moment he scored the eventual winner against arch-rivals Liverpool in August, he has terrorised defences with his pace and direct approach, whether playing on the left or down the middle.

It would be fitting if he can break the 30-goal barrier (he’s one short at present) and he has contributed so much more, assisting his colleagues and generally becoming the main threat in Erik ten Hag’s side, looking sharp and focused.

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing his iconic goal celebration and, at key times in the campaign, Rashford has come up clutch, such as in the Nou Camp against Barcelona, the Carabao Cup final at Wembley and notching the sweetest of derby winners against Manchester City. He hit a real purple patch at Old Trafford, scoring in nine consecutive home games to equal Dennis Viollet’s record, set in 1959.

Marcus is bidding to become the first homegrown recipient of the award since 1997/98, when Ryan Giggs collected the Sir Matt Busby trophy, and only the fourth since its inception with Mark Hughes and David Beckham also among the victors. It would take a brave person to bet against it happening.


2021/22: Cristiano Ronaldo
2020/21: Bruno Fernandes
2019/20: Bruno Fernandes
2018/19: Luke Shaw
2017/18: David De Gea

Vote for the 2022/23 award here now and look out for the result on Monday 29 May.