The PFA have today announced a surprising shortlist for both their Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards.
Nemanja Vidic has the opportunity to follow Rooney, Ronaldo and Giggs and become the fifth Manchester United winner in five years, but hoping to deprive him of that honour will be Gareth Bale, Samir Nasri, Scott Parker, Carlos Tevez and Blackpool’s Charlie Adam.
Staggeringly, both the Premier League’s top scorer Dimitar Berbatov and top creator Nani are excluded, despite playing pivotal roles in Manchester United’s season, which could at this stage still prove to be a treble-winning one.
To offer some contrast, Carlos Tevez has one goal less than Dimitar Berbatov’s 20 despite taking penalties for Manchester City, a responsibility that does not fall to Berbatov. Creative midfielder Nasri has only created a single goal for Arsenal this season, the same number as winger Gareth Bale. Their eye-catching performances have clearly impressed more than the hard figures Nani has returned for Manchester United, his 16 assists not meriting a place on the shortlist.
Instead, Nani is patronizingly included on the Young Player of the Year shortlist alongside Bale and Nasri. Seamus Coleman, Joe Hart and the favourite Jack Wilshere complete the list. Although Nani was one of the favourites to win the main gong before the shortlists were announced, it seems almost inevitable that Wilshere will win the Young Player of the Year award. The most notable absentee is another Manchester United player, Javier Hernandez, who’s 10 goals, many of which were vital, were not enough to propel him into the PFA’s consideration.
Nani’s exclusion from the main shortlist can be put down to his unpopularity amongst players and fans of clubs besides Manchester United, but it is difficult to fathom the reason Chicharito has been excluded, especially with the solid but unspectacular Seamus Coleman included. Religious, talented and polite to a fault, Hernandez is popular amongst players, fans and opponents, so to see his name excluded when the FA are trying to promote respect amongst players is surprising.
Whilst it’s difficult to argue that an anti-United bias is at work here given that the last four awards have all been made to a Manchester United player, perhaps questions need to be raised about what exactly the criteria for nomination were. All PFA members vote for two winners, and the results of that initial ballot feed into the shortlist, which is then subject to another vote. Is effort being valued above achievement? A criticism often levelled at Carlos Tevez is that, as faultless as his work rate is, his end product could be better. The inverse is true of Nani – his combined total of 25 goals and assists is unmatched in the league, yet he is considered petulant, frustrating, almost a luxury player by most.
So, with Wilshere almost guaranteed to walk away with the Young Player of the Year gong having broken into the England team (Nani is an established Portugal international with nearly 50 caps), who is most likely to walk away with the Player of the Year title?
I think it is fair to discount Carlos Tevez, Gareth Bale and Samir Nasri due to their staggering loss of form in the second half of the season. Charlie Adam has been impressive for Blackpool, but is often wasteful – and doesn’t have the wow factor of previous winners. That leaves a straight shoot-out between Nemanja Vidic and Scott Parker.
Whilst Vidic has been an absolute rock at the back for Manchester United, he has been surrounded by other great players. Scott Parker, although part of a disastrous West Ham campaign, almost single-handedly kept them in the survival race before the arrival of Demba Ba and Thomas Hitzelsperger turned their season. Whoever wins will be deserving, although should Manchester United complete even a double this season, Nemanja Vidic should get his well deserved nod.
Of course, Nani and Berbatov shouldn’t get too disheartened. In what is, essentially, a popularity contest, neither had much of a chance of winning but, given their already extensive medal collections, it’s difficult to see either really caring.