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Manchester United 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result

:Headline: Manchester United 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Manchester United's 2021-22 campaign, which proved to be a season of huge disappointment for the Red Devils.
Sports Mole

Manchester United's 2021-22 campaign came to a close with a 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace on Sunday, with the Red Devils finishing on 58 points in the Premier League, their poorest return since 1989-90.

Erik ten Hag has now given his first press conference as head coach of the 20-time English champions, and the Dutchman has a huge job on his hands to help the club become a major force once again.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Man United's season, which also saw them fail to make an impression in either of England's leading two cup competitions, in addition to losing to Atletico Madrid in the last-16 stage of the Champions League.


Final league position: 6th

EFL Cup: Third round

FA Cup: Fourth round

Champions League: Round of 16

Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (24)

Most assists: Bruno Fernandes (14)

Having added Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo to their squad last summer, it would be fair to say that Man United were expected to get close to the Premier League title this season, especially as they finished the 2020-21 campaign in second spot in the table, five points above Liverpool.

It has never threatened to be a remotely successful campaign for the 20-time English champions, though, with the club finishing down in sixth spot in the Premier League table, some 13 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 35 behind champions Manchester City.

Man United comfortably lost their final two league games of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion and Palace, but they still managed to claim sixth, and a position in the group stage of the 2022-23 Europa League, with West Ham United finishing in the Europa Conference League position.

The Red Devils were eliminated in the fourth round of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough and third round of the EFL Cup by West Ham, but they did, at least, manage to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League, losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in the round of 16, which included a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had enjoyed an impressive 2020-21 campaign at the helm, but the Norwegian was sacked in November following the disastrous 4-1 loss at Watford, with Michael Carrick then placed in charge on a caretaker basis ahead of Ralf Rangnick's arrival as interim manager at the start of December.

Rangnick took charge of 29 matches for the Red Devils, boasting a record of 11 wins, 10 draws and eight defeats, and it is difficult to draw too many positives from his time at the helm, as the team fell away in terms of Champions League qualification, while rumours of issues in the dressing room were rife.

A record of 16 wins, 10 draws and 12 defeats from 38 Premier League matches is nowhere near good enough for a team of their ilk, and there were a lot of low points during the campaign - the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool arguably the worst of those, while the 4-1 defeat at Watford proved to be Solskjaer's last game.

It had all started so well, with a 5-1 home win over Leeds United bringing confidence, and the Red Devils actually won four of their first five league games of the season, remaining unbeaten in the process, but it has turned out to be an absolute disaster for the club on so many levels.

Arguably only Ronaldo and David de Gea can hold their head high this season, with too many of the so-called key players underperforming. Defensively, they were incredibly poor, conceding 57 Premier League goals, and the 2021-22 league season came to a close with a goal difference of zero.

Man United have been a broken team this season, but Ten Hag's arrival has given the supporters reasons to be optimistic, and the Dutchman, who won three Eredivisie titles at Ajax, in addition to two Dutch Cups, spoke well at his first official press conference on Monday, insisting that he was confident of improving the fortunes of a number of struggling players.


Wins: 16 (6th)
Draws: 10 (=5th)
Losses: 12 (=16th)
Goals scored: 57 (8th)
Goals conceded: 57 (8th)
Yellow cards: 75 (5th)
Red cards: 2 (=4th)
Passes: 19,023 (5th)
Shots: 508 (5th)
Big chances missed: 50 (5th)
Saves: 128 (7th)
Tackles: 585 (16th)
Own goals: 3 (=2nd)
Hit woodwork: 13 (=5th)
Clearances: 671 (14th)


Last term, Man United finished second in the Premier League table, in addition to reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and semi-finals of the EFL Cup, while they lost to Villarreal in the Europa League final.

At the time, it might not have felt like a strong campaign, but the Red Devils would have taken that this term. Solskjaer's side were five points clear of third-placed Liverpool in last season's Premier League, while they found the back of the net on 73 occasions in the league, conceding just 44.

This season, they have scored 57 and conceded 57 despite adding serial winners Ronaldo and Varane to boost the team at both ends of the field. During the 2020-21 campaign, there were indications that Man United were getting closer to Man City, but they could not be further away from their rivals at this moment in time.

The only improvement this season was the team's performance in the Champions League, as they managed to reach the round of 16, largely thanks to the contribution of Ronaldo, whereas last term their journey ended in the group stage.

There was, perhaps most importantly, stability at the club last season, and a happy dressing room, but that has simply not been the case this term, with issues behind the scenes translating into serious problems on the field. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment it went so wrong, but Ten Hag is confident that he can help the most successful side in English football return to the summit once again.


According to some, Ronaldo has been a huge issue for Man United this season due to his inability to press from the front on a consistent basis, but the simple fact of the matter is that they would have struggled badly this term without the greatest goalscorer in the history of the sport.

The 37-year-old scored 24 goals and registered three assists in 38 matches for the Red Devils during the 2021-22 campaign, including 18 goals and three assists in 30 Premier League outings.

Ronaldo also netted six times in seven Champions League appearances, playing a leading role in the team reaching the knockout round of the competition.

The Portugal international missed the final game of the season at Palace due to a hip flexor problem, but he netted six times in four straight league games between April 16 and May 2, and the forward has scored two Premier League hat-tricks this term, demonstrating that he remains one of the finest players in world football despite his advancing years.

Ronaldo is seemingly staying at Old Trafford this summer despite the lack of Champions League football next term, and there simply has to be a major role for him, as he is one of few genuine winners at the club.

It would also not be a shock to see Ten Hag appoint the former Sporting Lisbon youngster as the team's new captain, with Maguire not doing anywhere near enough to keep hold of the armband.


There were not too many standout results to choose from in a poor season, but the team's best performance of the campaign perhaps came away to Tottenham in the Premier League at the end of October.

Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford were all on the scoresheet for the Red Devils at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and it was even more impressive considering that the team had suffered a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool one week before.

Man United ultimately could not build on the result, though, as they lost their next two in the Premier League to Man City and Watford, with Solskjaer leaving shortly after. The club's fans will also have enjoyed two big wins over Leeds United, in addition to the home success over Arsenal at the start of December.

> Click here for a full list of Man United's results from the 2021-22 season


There was so much optimism after the first match of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, with Man United thrashing Leeds 5-1 at Old Trafford. Fernandes scored a brilliant hat-trick against the Whites, and there was plenty of title talk after the contest with Marcelo Bielsa's side.

It was to become apparent, quite quickly after, that the Red Devils would not be able to launch a title challenge this term, but the atmosphere inside Old Trafford on the first weekend was absolutely electric, with the team looking capable of enjoying a fine campaign, both domestically and in Europe.

Ronaldo also provided plenty of standout moments during the season, with the best of those arguably coming on his second debut, as he scored a brace against Newcastle, announcing his return to the Theatre of Dreams in true Ronaldo fashion.


Man United will trim their wage bill significantly this summer, with Paul Pogba, Cavani, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard all set to leave on free transfers.

Meanwhile, Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial could all be made surplus to requirements; the club need to get rid of those who have caused problems this season, and there will be significant changes at Old Trafford ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

Ten Hag, during his first press conference, insisted that he would work to improve the fortunes of those who have struggled this season, but there will also be huge investment in the team, as they are short of quality in almost every area.

At least two new defenders will be required, with Ajax's Jurrien Timber and Lisandro Martinez both linked with moves to the club, while at least one new midfielder will have to arrive, with Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong believed to be a leading target for the club, and the Netherlands international is the type of player that the Red Devils should be looking to sign this summer.

There will also be a new centre-forward moving to Old Trafford, with Benfica's Darwin Nunez seen as a leading target, while a new right-sided attacker might also be on the club's wishlist.

Man United need the right signings to help them push forward, but Ten Hag must also find a way to get a tune out of the likes of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Varane, Sancho and Rashford, as too many players with so much quality have been short of the required standard in 2021-22.


As mentioned earlier in the piece, De Gea and Ronaldo can be pleased with their individual performances this season, but there is no getting away from the fact that it has been a desperately poor season for the club across the board.

A top-four spot in the Premier League was seen as the minimum requirement this term, but they have finished behind both Tottenham and Arsenal, while they stumbled to sixth position due to West Ham losing on the final day.

Rangnick failed to make an impression as interim head coach but has at least uncovered a number of issues behind the scenes, and Ten Hag, who has brought Steve McClaren back to Old Trafford in what could be a stroke of genius, has a huge job on his hands to help the club become a real force once again.

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