After what seemed like an eternity in Premier League title race limbo, at long last Manchester United have put an end to the most predictable championship hunt since the dawn of time.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side winning their 20th league title has seemed like foregone conclusion since February, but given their capitulation last season where they squandered a nine point lead, many had to think twice before declaring mid-March success.
However, the mind-numbingly easy 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday put an end to Manchester City’s virtually non-existent chances of retaining their crown. Following defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, City winning the league looked about as likely as Luis Suarez biting an opponent for the second time in his career.
The fact United have coasted to Premier League victory this season should not distract from the fact that there are a number of players who have not justified a place in the squad of currently the best team in England, while others are unimpressed by a lack of time on the pitch.
Classic Manchester United teams have always highlighted the importance of inventive wing-play, whether that comes in the form of Ryan Giggs’ nimble footwork or David Beckham’s impeccable crossing, but this season has seen creativity dry up out wide and it has been all too noticeable.
Ashley Young was earmarked as an underwhelming signing when he joined from Villa for £16 million in 2011, but in his first season he proved to be a valuable asset at Old Trafford, chipping in with 11 assists and six goals in 25 league appearances.
He was never going to emulate the plethora of glamorous names that preceded him in terms of global recognition, but Young’s contribution was notable and he proved he was capable of making the step up from Villa.
However, this season he is yet to score in the league and he has just three assists to his name from 19 matches, 17 of which were starts. United fans give the impression that he would not be missed, but considering his form at Villa and in his first season at Old Trafford, there could be a few teams willing to splash out for him.
He is quite clearly a rung or two below Gareth Bale, but should the Wales star leave Spurs, Young would potentially fit the replacement checklist in terms of attributes, while also being cheap enough to allow money to be spent elsewhere.
Another United winger who has had a poor season is Nani, and the reports linking the Portugal international with a move have been so intense that he probably already has his bags packed and waiting by the front door.
Before this term, Nani recorded 25 assists and 17 goals over the course of two seasons, but it has been a completely different story for him since. His only contributions in the league have been two assists and a solitary goal, while he only just qualifies for a Premier League winner’s medal currently, having made 10 appearances.
Few players divide opinion quite like Nani, with one word particularly synonymous when describing him, and that is “frustrating”. One minute he will produce a magical piece of skill which sees him glide past three defenders, but then that move will ultimately end with him smashing a