Despite all the criticism of Manchester United’s performances this season, Louis van Gaal’s men finished the weekend third in the league and only a point off the top of the table.
United failed to prevent Leicester's Jamie Vardy from breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s all-time record for consecutive goals in Premier League matches. However, after Bastian Schweinsteiger powerfully headed home the equaliser, United created enough chances to win the game and were certainly the better of the two sides at the King Power Stadium.
Ahead of this Saturday’s visit of West Ham, and a season-defining trip to Wolfsburg in the Champions League on December 8, this article discusses the few outstanding players for an inconsistent United team so far this season.
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There is no doubt in my mind that 26-year-old defender Chris Smalling has been Manchester United’s best player of the 2015-16 season so far. The England international’s development over the last 18 months has been incredible to see and this term he has established himself as arguably the best centre-back in the entire country.
Smalling is strong, very quick, dominant in one-on-one situations and his reading of the game is getting better all the time. He has played in every United game so far this season which has massively helped him to improve the consistency of his displays.
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Smalling, United’s current third-choice captain, has developed into a genuine leader and you could argue that the Red Devils wouldn’t have the best defensive record in the league if he wasn’t in the team.
David de Gea
Sergio Romero started the season in goal for United amid the controversial David de Gea transfer saga with Real Madrid. In the end, De Gea not only stayed but also signed a new contract and many fans would agree that keeping him has been the best piece of business Van Gaal has done since he became manager at Old Trafford.
Ever since he regained his place in the starting XI, De Gea has proved why Real Madrid pursued him all summer long by producing some outstanding performances. The former Atletico Madrid man’s distribution has always been second to none, but now he has the diving range, positioning intelligence and physical presence to dominate his penalty area.
The 25-year-old’s reflexes are simply unbelievable and he looks fearless whenever a striker is through on goal in a one-on-one situation. De Gea was the main reason why United secured a top-four finish last campaign and he seems to have got even better. The Spaniard’s crucial saves could lead the Red Devils to silverware this season and he is now rightly regarded as one of, if not the best goalkeeper in world football.
Following his huge summer move from Monaco, Anthony Martial burst onto the scene at Manchester United with four goals in his first four games, which included a sensational debut goal against rivals Liverpool. Although, the goals have dried up for him recently; having failed to score in his last seven United appearances, the 19-year-old’s overall contribution to the team has not diminished.
Martial provides an excellent focal point for United’s attacking play when he is deployed through the middle and he’s become an essential part of Van Gaal’s team. The French forward has electric pace and is one of only a few United players who has the ability to beat a man and run past an opponent.
Should the rest of Martial’s teammates provide more support for him in forward positions, I'm sure that the exciting youngster will return to goalscoring form sooner rather than later.