Man Utd half-season report: Best and worst player, transfer targets and overall grade

It’s fair to say that Manchester United’s season has been a whirlwind so far. After a promising start, defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool, and Watford forced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to step down and be replaced by Ralf Rangnick. His influence has been consistent if not spectacular, but United is showing plenty of potentials as they enter the second semester of the Premier League.

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Although the issues may outnumber the positives overall, there is plenty of excitement emanating from Old Trafford as United look to usher in a new era.


Express Sport will now examine United’s best and worst players, evaluate prospective January transfer targets, and provide a final mid-term grade for the men of Manchester.


So far, the best player


Cristiano Ronaldo has made it a habit to silence his detractors throughout his storied career, and this season has been no exception.


After some questioned if he could still play in the Premier League, the Portuguese superstar has put any qualms to rest, scoring seven times in 13 league appearances since making a fairytale return to Old Trafford on deadline day.


Add in his six goals in five Champions League group stage games to become the first player in English club history to score in the first five European Cup/Champions League matches, and Ronaldo has had a spectacular season.


The first of his two goals in a 3-2 win against Arsenal in December took his career tally to a mind-boggling 800 goals, and he’s not done yet.


Some unfair criticisms regarding the forward’s unwillingness to press have been eclipsed by a string of stunning late strikes that have saved United on numerous occasions this season.


In the second half of the season, look for more spectacular strikes, ‘Siu’ celebrations and records to be shattered.


So far, the most disappointing player has been


Ronaldo’s late heroics have frequently stolen the show this season, providing a welcome distraction for United’s poor defense.


A slew of niggling injuries has limited defensive mainstay Raphael Varane to just three Premier League appearances, as the backline has looked ragged and in desperate need of leadership at times.


Harry Maguire’s red card against Watford pretty well sums up his season, and United’s full-backs haven’t fared much better.


Since Rangnick’s hiring, both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw have been dropped from the starting XI, with Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles looking more secure at the back while also posing a danger going forward.


The German coach is already making his imprint by laying out his expectations, and it appears that the English pair have a lot to prove if they want to restore their starting spots.


Transfer goals for January


Rangnick pleased the club’s hierarchy during negotiations before his appointment, and he reportedly made no secret of his ambition to bolster United’s midfield.


Given that the midfield has been recognized as a weakness, don’t be surprised to see some midfield reinforcements arrive in January, with Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara and RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara both connected.


The latter appears to be a serious possibility, having worked closely with Rangnick during their time at Leipzig, and Haidara recently revealed that the German coach has been a “major role model” in his career.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Lazio is another midfield possibility being discussed.


C is the overall grade.


Despite a turbulent season, the Red Devils remain within striking distance of the Premier League’s top four with games in hand following the fixture turmoil created by Coronavirus complications.


Rangnick has had a decent start to life as a Premier League manager, with two 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace and Norwich City, but his suggestions for more aggression and energy indicate that there is plenty more to come in the second half of the season.


Since the arrival of the German, there have been signs of improved discipline and organization, but there is still work to be done if the Red Devils are to make this rollercoaster of a season memorable for all the right reasons.


The ship has stabilized, and the overall image is no longer as dismal as it has been at times this season, so a solid C feels appropriate at the midway point.

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