Man United 2023/24 season review and player ratings: Mainoo 9, Fernandes 8, Rashford 5

The Red Devils endure worst ever Premier League season but defeat Manchester City to win FA Cup final

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Season synopsis

Premier League final position: 8th

Champions League: Eliminated in the group stage, with one win from six.

FA Cup: Winners, defeating Manchester City in the final.

League Cup: Fourth round, knocked out by Newcastle United.

Performance of the season

Manchester City 1 Manchester United 2: Tactically perfect against an opponent considered close to footballing perfection. Every selection made by Erik ten Hag – including some huge calls such as Sofyan Amrabat over Casemiro – worked. They were all helped by the 4-2-2-2 (or 4-2-4) tactics, which were defending in smaller zones and spaces and not exposing substandard or not fully fit players.

That meant that Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Amrabat and Marcus Rashford were all protected by the tactics – they would have struggled had United been asked to press all over the pitch. United went in hard with this strategy, and it worked like a dream with every player excelling.

Worst performance of the season

Crystal Palace 4 Manchester United 0: Just awful, from start to finish. United were loaded with injuries and had to play midfielder Casemiro as a central defender alongside Evans, who’d only been back in training for two days after five weeks out. The United side struggled against Palace’s direct and physical style and were 2-0 down at half time, a deficit which had doubled by the 66th minute.

The travelling fans, however, saved their best performance of the season for the night at a hard to reach Selhurst Park, singing long after the final whistle in support of their club.

Thriller of season

Manchester United 4 Liverpool 3: Liverpool were clear favourites to come to Old Trafford and knock Erik ten Hag’s side out of the FA Cup. Liverpool still had a chance of a treble. Yet United took the lead before the scoring went 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2 (Antony in the 87th minute), 2-3 (Harvey Elliot, and how 9,000 travelling fans loved it), 3-3 before Amad Diallo scored a 102nd minute winner.

“We didn’t really get control of the game, so the manager told us to be more aggressive,” said Harry Maguire afterwards. He put on an attacker and basically said, ‘Go man for man.’ I was up against the striker, full-backs against the wingers, man for man all over the pitch. It worked. It enabled us to get a bit higher up the pitch, put a bit more pressure on, because there was a period in the second half when I felt like we were letting the game drift away a little. Credit to the manager to see and recognise that.”

When Jurgen Klopp had calmed down after the game, he was quite magnanimous.

“We go 3-2 up, all good,” said the German. “Then they score, 3-3, 4-3. Come on, easily can accept that, congratulations to United, they fought extremely hard as well. That’s how it is … ”

The reaction of United’s players to Amad scoring the winner was joyous for several reasons. On one level, the obvious one – a last minute extra time winner in front of the Stretford End to make it 4-3 against Liverpool was the best moment of the season so far. But they were also delighted for Amad who’d had a difficult journey to Manchester and who felt he deserved more chances this season. After his winner against Liverpool, he’d get them.

Player of season

Diogo Dalot: The bar was set low by Manchester United’s previously high standards, but Dalot, 25, played 50 times for United in season 2023-24 and just staying fit was a big plus. And he usually played well. Diogo is quick, his strength and endurance has improved. He’s strong. He’s developed into a strong, multifaceted asset.

He’s sociable and connects with everyone in the squad. His English is excellent to bond with the English lads, but he gets on really well with the Portuguese and Spanish speakers. Cristiano Ronaldo had a big impact on him. Diogo was on awe of Cristiano, but in a good way to learn how to be a top footballer and they’re now friends.

Goal of season

Alejandro Garnacho v Everton: It’s November 2023 and Manchester United are under serious pressure as they travel to Everton who having been docked 10 points, need a win. Garnacho starts while a Youth cup teammate, Kobbie Mainoo, makes his Premier League debut. Goodison Park is febrile, fans protest with red cards calling the Premier League corrupt.

They are silenced minutes into the game by Garnacho’s overhead free-kick which sails into the Park End goal. It’s wondrous, a rare high in a season of lows and 3,000 Reds in the Bullens Road break out into ‘Viva Garnacho’ – to the tune of his hero ‘Viva Ronaldo’.

Updated: May 29, 2024, 1:29 PM