This season has been a topsy turvy campaign for Manchester United in many respects.
The highs have been balanced out by the lows, the peaks have been matched by the troughs and the euphoria of success has been levelled on many an occasion.
It has hardly been a straight forward season in some respects but amidst the ever-changing landscape that has been United this year, there have been some consistencies – none more so than David de Gea and Rafael da Silva.
Yet both were left out of the 2013 PFA nominations with Jack Wilshere getting a nomination ahead of both.
Wilshere is one of England’s greatest young talents and previously won the award back in 2011 but does he deserve it on the merit of his performances this season? No.
This was Rafael‘s fourth season at the club. Ever since joining back in 2008, his brash and characteristically dangerous style of play epitomised a career that always seemed to take two steps forward and three steps back.
The red card against Bayern Munich was his low point but the Rafael that played that day is unrecognisable from United’s #2 today.
International duty with Brazil, becoming a father and Fabio departing for QPR have all helped him transform himself from a sprightly, unreliable Brazilian into one of the Premier League’s best defenders.
Combining defending and marauding attacking runs with ease, Rafael has been nothing short of a revelation this year. Man-of-the-match performances against Everton at home and QPR away epitomise just how far he has progressed.
Yet, he was overlooked for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. I genuinely thought he was a dead cert to be in contention for the award.
And as for De Gea, don’t get me started on big Dave.
Name another keeper in the league who has been more consistent this season? Cech? Krul? Hart? Nobody. De Gea has been by far and out the best goalkeeper this year – nobody comes close.
Setting the longest period in the Premier League without conceding (678 minutes) since Van Der Sar’s epic 1,311 minutes back in 2008, he made his critics eat the humblest of pies.
The levels of progression he has shown this season is scary considering he is only 22.
He has transformed himself from a skinny boy into an unwavering man between the sticks. Every single aspect of his game has improved – dominating his six yard box, dealing with aerial threats, taking whacks in the face, distribution, decision making and shot stopping: everything.
It is a far cry from the De Gea who flapped at a ball against Blackburn to give them a 3-2 win at Old Trafford back in 2011. A far cry from the De Gea who struggled to find his way in the Premier League in his first season at United amidst a continuous storm of media pressure. Now, he is ready for the rough and rumble of the league and looks like he invites the challenge more with every game he plays.
At the same age, only Buffon and Casillas were established goalkeepers at really top level clubs (Juventus and Real Madrid). They have since become stalwarts in their own right and there is absolutely no reason why we are not watching the career beginnings of the worlds best goalkeeper.
So, to see Rafael and De Gea both left out of the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and Wilshere get a spot is a real shame. Welbeck was a surprise nomination to anyone who isn’t a United fan and in all honesty, some United fans too – especially given that he was chosen ahead of De Gea and Rafael for the award. But, I am chuffed for Welbeck who should get a lot of confidence out of the nomination.