Strange season, not how I imagined it … It’s been all over the place, from carrying on where we left off last season before Christmas, to wondering when we’d get our next win. The game at Everton in October had a massive effect: losing Van Dijk for the season, and Thiago. That was the start of the unravelling. But here we are, going into the last game needing a win to salvage a season that looked to be over for us a few weeks back. 7/10
Stars/flops There’s no way, after all the injuries and the personal tragedy experienced by some, that it’d be right to call anyone a flop. We’ve had players out of position, dips in form, injuries, but they made it through what was the worst season any of them would have experienced playing for Liverpool. Of course, Salah stood out again, Thiago is showing his class and it’s been great to watch Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips mature.
What needs to happen this summer? First up, let’s sign a centre-back. Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konaté is forever being mentioned and at 21 he’d be ideal. We also need reinforcements in midfield, with Wijnaldum going, and up front. Yves Bissouma and Patrick Bamford could fit in nicely. And we’ve got Harvey Elliott coming back from his loan at Blackburn.
What made you smile? More of a huge grin: Alisson’s last-minute header at West Brom. It’s odd for a season to be ignited with only two games left but ours was. Beyond that, the collapse of the ESL was another happy moment. Horrendous as it was, it was brilliant to see fans rising up against it. It could well prove to be the catalyst for the game changing for the better here.
Given where we were in November, I genuinely can’t believe the position we’re in right now. Carabao Cup winners (of course), Premier League champions (with three games to spare) and Champions League finalists. Without doubt, it’s Pep’s greatest feat since he’s been in England. Don’t listen to the revisionists who say a City title win was “inevitable” in a pandemic – yes, City have more resources than most but rewind to the start of the season – we had no pre-season due to the previous season’s commitments and to Covid outbreaks. At Christmas we were eighth, eight points behind Liverpool, and on 3 January we had only 14 senior players available for Chelsea, but still wiped the floor with them. That was the big turning point and, significantly, the birthplace of this false-nine City team. Factor in injuries to Agüero and De Bruyne and it’s been far from plain sailing. 10/10
Stars/flops A proper collective effort but Dias, Gündogan, Stones, Foden and Mahrez have been the key players. Cancelo and De Bruyne just miss out on that core group due to lapses in form and injuries. Bernardo Silva has been consistent, too. Flops? None of note.
What needs to happen this summer? With Agüero sadly off and Jesus still so inconsistent, we need a striker. Harry Kane’s age, durability and ankles worry me but he’s undeniably world-class. We could also do with a top-level left-back to challenge Zinchenko.
What made you smile? Foden’s thunderbolt at Anfield. What an absurd goal. I think that was the moment the wider football public woke up to the fact that he’s England’s most gifted footballer since Rooney.
Lloyd Scragg NinetyThreeTwenty.com @lloyd_scragg
We start games badly, give away easy goals and always seem to make things hard for ourselves – but going forward we look a match for any team. The defeat by Sheffield United at home in January summed up the inconsistencies: if we’re going to get back to winning trophies we need to cut out the self-inflicted wounds that have cost us so many points. Ole is still learning on the job: you can see the outline of the masterpiece he’s trying to create – I just hope he’s given the time and resources to finish the job. 7/10
Stars/flops Cavani came with a big reputation, a rich pedigree, and didn’t disappoint. I just wish we’d signed him five years earlier – he clearly raised the games of everyone around him. Bruno has provided plenty more magic and Luke Shaw looks a totally different player this season, realising his potential at last. The flops? Lindelöf isn’t good enough for United. And special mention to Fred, the most un-Brazilian Brazilian player since Kleberson.
What needs to happen this summer? We need a quick, top-level centre-half, rather than taking a punt on a player with potential – I’d go for Varane – and a defensive midfielder. Declan Rice would be a good swap for Lingard.
What made you smile? The clip that went viral during the ESL protest at Old Trafford: the lad who managed to get on to the pitch living out every United fan’s dream by scoring an exquisite overhead kick – one Rooney would have been proud of.
Always looking over our shoulders, relegation anxiety, a lack of identity, vision and ambition … just another season under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce. We’ve had some genuine contenders for Worst Ever Newcastle Performance this season (and given our recent history, that’s saying something) such as the meek surrenders to Sheffield United, Brighton and Brentford. Bruce may claim he’s a Newcastle fan but his downbeat public utterances and apparent acceptance of our meagre lot do little to inspire, or give us any hope. There’s genuine passion and talent in this squad, as our late-season rally showed, but too often it’s been kept in a tactical straitjacket, or neutered by baffling team selections. 3/10
Stars/flops Keepers Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka have excelled and kept us up. Callum Wilson is the striker we’ve needed for years and Arsenal loanee Joe Willock has energised our pedestrian midfield. And, of course, there’s Allan Saint-Maximin, a man who would have got us out of our seats had we been in them. As for flops: Jeff Hendrick, Emil Krafth and, while he is improving, poor Joelinton has still done little to justify the £40m. There’s also a feeling that the Longstaff brothers have gone backwards under Bruce. We shouldn’t be wasting homegrown talent.
What needs to happen this summer? Willock is first on the wishlist, and we should bolster the full-back positions too: Jetro Willems would be welcomed back.
What made you smile? With no fans in the ground, Matt Ritchie’s vocal contributions could be heard (very) loud and clear. They made us chuckle.
David and Richard Holmes
How did the season go for us? Did it live up to expectations? Did we enjoy it? Let me try and answer this without laughing hysterically. I’ve run out of adjectives for how bad it’s been. Boring games week after week with barely any goal threat from the Blades, and the departure of the best manager we’ve had in my lifetime. Most United fans I knew expected us to take a step back this season, but we stepped off a cliff. 1/10
Stars/flops There’s only two players who can hold their heads up. Aaron Ramsdale endured a torrid first few months but has been outstanding since January, keeping games respectable. And David McGoldrick’s seven goals are a great return for a team that’s been so relentlessly uncreative: he’s been our only outfield player to consistently look like he belongs at this level. There’s not enough space to discuss all the players who flopped – it was truly remarkable to see so many decline in form at once.
What needs to happen this summer? Despite the miserable season, a lot of our squad did extremely well in the Championship in recent years so I expect the majority to remain. Sander Berge may move on – Arsenal are supposed to be keen – although I hope not. We’ve barely seen him play in person due to the pandemic.
What made you smile? A first win at Old Trafford in 48 years. As enjoyable as it was surprising.
Ben Meakin @BladesPod – the Sheffield United Podcast
A literal up-and-down season: brilliant right up until the new year when we beat Liverpool and looked on course for a European challenge, but then a total collapse when nearly a whole XI was injured. Sadly the season’s defining game will once again have to be a 9-0 defeat – but at least Hasenhüttl has finally learned his lesson from that in terms of making an immediate change after an early red card. His standing has dropped fairly significantly from where it was at Christmas, though. Certainly some work to do this summer. 3/10
Stars/flops James Ward-Prowse led by example, but perhaps our terrible run from January showed he’s not always the best captain. Stuart Armstrong again proved his importance – we only really click when he’s on form – and Kyle Walker-Peters has had a transformative impact at right-back: a rare scenario where all parties are delighted with the outcome of a swap deal. It’s not been a great year for most of our wide attackers, with Redmond, Djenepo and Minamino all largely failing to impress.
What needs to happen this summer? With Ryan Bertrand on his way out, left-back is the obvious hole to fill. We also need backup for both sides, and another wide attacking player – patience with the aforementioned trio has worn fairly thin (and Minamino’s loan deal surely won’t be extended). If we keep hold of Danny Ings, another striker can wait.
What made you smile? Getting back into the ground for the final home game. We lost it (par for the recent course) but it was a big step towards things getting back to normal.
Steve Grant SaintsWeb.co.uk @SteveGrant1983
A calamity of a season. When we topped the league early on there was a moment where I believed the illusion and fancied us. Then it unravelled and we spiralled. The fact we still almost stole in for a Champions League place tells you everything you need to know about top-tier mediocrity. If only we’d sacked José sooner: he actually made the team believe they weren’t good enough, and the fans entered the echo chamber to scream the same thing. 3/10
Stars/flops Kane and Son are next-level; the saving grace of a team that was the epitome of dysfunction in midfield and defence. Did we sign Matt Doherty from Wolves or did he play like he did because he was raised by Wolves? Tanguy Ndombele didn’t flop, but his talent wasn’t consolidated with influence and stature. And Pierre-Emile Højbjerg? We exhausted him until he broke. The team itself as a collective turned into an obstacle handcrafted by Mourinho. Spurs as a concept flopped.
What needs to happen this summer? If Kane goes I’m going to enter stasis like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes. When I awake a thousand years from now, I’m going to find a rusted, broken golden cockerel on the beach and thump the sand screaming: “Levy, you blew it up.” The only way Spurs can replace Kane is by signing Kane. Otherwise we’ll have to rebuild around the collective and not the individual – which could be a potential silver lining. And the only silver we’re getting close to right now.
What made you smile? Spurs joining the ESL. Honestly, I haven’t stopped laughing. Great bit from Levy there. Almost on par with Mourinho benching Dele Alli for the entire season because Dele can play football. Richard Pryor levels of laughter over here.
Spooky DearMrLevy.com, patreon.com/SpookyInPurgatory, @Spooky23
Well, that went pretty much how I expected. Horrendous. We’ve actually been rubbish ever since Covid first appeared – we limped over the line in our promotion season, and barely laid a glove on anyone when we got to the top flight. I wasn’t there to see it all unfold, at least, so I’m filing it away as a bad dream. I’ll wake up again where it all started, back in the Championship. Both our managers failed us, sadly: Bilic was part of the poor recruitment process last summer and our players started the season looking seriously unfit. And while Allardyce improved us, he did so after getting off to an awful start. The improvements came too late. 2/10
Stars/flops The two stars are easy: Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira. The latter scored 11 goals and assisted a shedload more – he looked like a pristine Rolls-Royce on a back-street car lot. The flops? Too many to mention.
What needs to happen this summer? Sadly, those two stars will both be sold to fund an attempt to refit the team and go straight back up. We don’t just have holes in the squad, we have huge chasms. Years of loans and short-term thinking leads to year after year of rebuilding, and this year is no different.
What made you smile? Given how poor we’ve been and how comparatively strong Wolves are currently – particularly financially – going to their place and beating them despite our awfulness caused much mirth. It was a rare bit of joy in what has been an otherwise joyless season.
Richard Jefferson @RichBaggie
Our best season in years. The West Brom game last week summed it up: not playing well but still having the character to grind out a result. Moyes has got the Hammers playing as a team and to be even talked about as Champions League contenders was fantastic. The key game was against Wolves after the first two defeats: the 4-0 win told us this was a different, less flaky West Ham. Coming back from three down at Spurs proved the point. Not signing a striker in January after selling Haller left us short, but we’ve got to be very happy with Moyes for massively overachieving, finishing above Arsenal, making sensible signings and creating a side without egos. 8.5/10
Stars/flops Rice has been immense alongside Soucek, who has been a great advert for Czech potato salad. Vladimir “RoboCop” Coufal still has Grealish in his pocket and plays well every game, Ogbonna and Dawson impressed, Cresswell provided great deliveries and Fornals worked tirelessly. Loanee Jesse Lingard made a real difference, too. Benrahma’s lack of goals was disappointing, though there’s no doubting his talent, while Bowen’s form tailed off, but he always puts in a shift.
What needs to happen this summer? Sign Lingard, and add a striker or two to cover for Antonio’s dodgy hamstrings. Harry Kane would do as a backup. We also need a defensive midfielder as cover for Rice and Soucek, another defender and a long-term successor to Fabianski.
What made you smile? Moyes’s dad-dance at Spurs after Lanzini’s equaliser. It was also inspiring to see Leicester beat Super League splitters Chelsea in front of real fans in the FA Cup final.
Pete May Author of Goodbye to Boleyn, HammersInTheHeart.blogspot.co.uk
It’s felt like a slog. After two really good seasons we slumped back towards lower mid-table. Key players such as Jota and Doherty were sold, Raúl Jiménez and Jonny suffered bad injuries and the players who came in didn’t do enough. Losing at home to West Brom was the low point and had us looking over our shoulders. Credit to the players for digging in to ensure relegation was never on the menu, but all things considered, it’s one to forget. Losing Nuno is the icing on the cake: it feels like we’re heading into the abyss. Anything could happen next season. 4/10
Stars/flops Pedro Neto managed a handful of goals and assists, Rúben Neves and Adama Traoré also made some important contributions. But Nelson Semedo was questionable defensively and didn’t offer a lot in the opposite direction, and Fabio Silva, despite only being 18, is really nowhere near ready to lead the line.
What needs to happen this summer? Above all else, we need a proven, experienced manager. Rafa Benítez would be great, but it sounds like it’ll be Bruno Lage from the Jorge Mendes stable. As for players, we need a centre-half, a mobile midfielder and forwards who can create. We’ve barely averaged a goal a game this season.
What made you smile? Nuno donating £250,000 to the local Feed Our Pack charity was an incredible gesture and typical of the man. People in Wolverhampton took him to their hearts. It seems the feeling was mutual.
Thomas Baugh wolvesblog.com @wolvesblog