Manchester United have announced the nominees for the club’s Player of the Month award for August.
Our three August Player of the Month nominees are in — voting is now open ⤵️#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 30, 2023
Despite United enduring a tougher start than many had anticipated, certain players have lived up to, and surpassed, expectations in the opening three games.
We examine which man warrants the crown of Player of the Month most.
Erik ten Hag was reported to have made a goalkeeper a priority this summer, following a series of catastrophic mistakes by De Gea towards the end of last season. Having worked with Onana previously at Ajax, the Dutch manager was acutely aware of the skillset the Cameroonian provides in goal.
These attributes were on full display in the opening day fixture against Wolves, where Onana made six crucial saves in the face of constant counter-attacks by the opposition. The performance was enough to warrant the Man of the Match award come full time. It would be a fair assessment to say Onana was instrumental in United securing the three points.
This was followed by a mixed bag of performances in the subsequent fixtures however.
Against Spurs, Onana was a rare bright spot amidst a poor team performance in a 2-0 loss, and could not necessarily be blamed for either of the conceded goals.
The opener against Nottingham Forest, however, was almost comical. Onana first inexplicably refusing to come out and meet the onrushing Taiwo Awoniyi, before promptly falling over and allowing a tame effort to ricochet in off his arm on the ground.
Forest’s second left Onana helpless on his feet and though it would be unreasonable to attribute blame, there was an underlying feeling the cat-like reflexes of De Gea may have reached the header in time.
CONCLUSION – Third Place
- An impressive debut and a resolute showing against Spurs are not enough to assuage the performance against Forest, when compared to his team mate’s consistency across the same three matches.
Wan-Bissaka is likely the player to have undergone the biggest transformation during Ten Hag’s tenure as United manager.
Initially cast aside in favour of Diogo Dalot, the former Crystal Palace fullback had appeared closer to the exit door at Old Trafford than the pitch. He didn’t make a start in the league under Ten Hag until after Christmas last season.
Wan-Bissaka would, however, maintain a firm grip on the starting berth at right-back after this point. He firmly suprassed Dalot as the first-choice for the remainder of the season, displaying attacking improvements as well as a greater comfortability in possession and progression.
This first-choice status appears to have held true at the beginning of this one.
The right-back provided a brilliant assist for Raphael Varane’s winner against Wolves in a 1-0 victory and was easily United’s best outfield player.
A disappointing performance against Spurs, which was collectively matched by his team mates, was saved by a brilliant showing at home to Forest. Wan-Bissaka was a constant threat down the right-hand side, often linking up with Antony to great effect, while giving Forest zero success down his flank on the counter.
CONCLUSION – Second Place
- Two impressive performances at Old Trafford would normally be enough for United’s Most Improved Player to win the award, but the integral role his captain has played in the same period means he just loses out.
Bruno Fernandes has carried the attack this season.
Ranking first for ‘Big Chances Created’ and ‘Most Expected Assists’, Fernandes’ creativity often goes to waste at United. Had his team mates capitalised upon the chances provided for them by their captain, United’s position in the table would look far better than it does.
Fernandes’ dominant creativity was even recognised by rival midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne, who ranked the United man as his number one offensive midfielder in the league: “A creative machine,” De Bruyne concluded.
Against Wolves, Fernandes provided the inventive through ball which allowed Wan-Bissaka to provide the assist for Varane’s winner.
Against Spurs, despite a general poor showing, the Portuguese midfielder still laid on two key chances, and should have scored himself. Even when not at his best, Fernandes still provides ample opportunities for his side to win. When his fellow attackers are not at their best, they are wholly anonymous.
The game against Nottingham Forest is what sets United’s captain apart from the other Player of The Month nominees however.
Fernandes was instrumental in helping United come from two goals down, providing an assist and scoring the winner from the penalty spot, as his side ran out 3-2 winners. He was a constant source of creativity and control in the midfield, providing the framework to enable his side to recover from the early set back.
It was a captain’s performance; at a point where United’s season was on the verge of collapsing as quickly as it had begun.
Fernandes will rise to another level of performance with a more clinical forward ahead of him. Arise Sir Rasmus of House Højlund.
CONCLUSION – First Place
O Capitão. The talisman. The beating heart of the attack.
- Fernandes has carried United’s attack for large parts of his Old Trafford career, with the start of this season proving no different. His performances have seen him rank as one of the best players in the league, let alone merely at United.
A worthy winner.