Season review: How United made it to the Super Cup

As UEFA.com's Manchester United reporter, Simon Hart followed José Mourinho's side every step of the way to Stockholm. Here he picks his highlights of a memorable campaign.

United celebrate completing a set of major UEFA trophies
United celebrate completing a set of major UEFA trophies ©Sportsfile

It was a campaign that took Manchester United to eight countries across Europe including some of the continent's more distant footballing outposts – Odesa, Istanbul and Rostov – yet it ended with a familiar sight: the Old Trafford team and their manager, José Mourinho, lifting yet another European trophy. With it, United completed the full set of European club honours and there were plenty of highlights on the road to Stockholm.

This article is from the official 2017 UEFA Super Cup programme. Get your copy here

Best moment
Stockholm power show

It has to be the final. United were more solid than spectacular en route to the Swedish capital but at the Friends Arena they produced a show of power that simply blew Ajax away. It was big players giving big performances when it really mattered and Ajax's youngsters simply had no answer. Ander Herrera was outstanding in protecting his back four and closing down the space between the lines, but he was not the only one to shine on an evening when Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan set the seal on their first seasons at Old Trafford with a goal apiece.

The UEFA Super Cup programme
The UEFA Super Cup programme©UEFA.com

Best goal
Rostov ripped apart

Marcus Rashford registered fine individual goals against Anderlecht and Celta while now-departed captain Wayne Rooney broke the club's European scoring record. The pick of the bunch, though, was a team effort. It was the strike that ended Rostov's resistance in the last 16 at Old Trafford, and a wonderful piece of counterattacking football: in a matter of ten seconds and nine touches, Juan Mata picked up a loose ball in his own half, Zlatan Ibrahimović ushered it on to Mkhitaryan surging down the right, and the Armenian delivered a cross that Ibrahimović flicked on for the man who had started it all, Mata, to score.

Best atmosphere
United in defiance

There was plenty of colour and cacophony from the supporters of the rival sides who came in large numbers determined to savour their Old Trafford trips – from Saint-Étienne to Anderlecht to Celta on a lively semi-final night. The most memorable moment, though, unfolded after the minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Manchester terror attack on the evening of the final as the United fans in the South Stand delivered a message of support and defiance with a chorus of "Manchester, Manchester".

Key performer
Beware the 'Beast'

Ronaldo, Beckham, Figo: Great Real Madrid v Man. United goals
Ronaldo, Beckham, Figo: Great Real Madrid v Man. United goals

Antonio Valencia is United's Mr Reliable – a wonderful athlete and a highly experienced footballer who last term highlighted his improved positional play by barely putting a foot wrong in a new defensive berth. He arrived at Old Trafford in 2009 as a winger but has excelled of late as a right-back and it was no surprise he was voted players' player of the year by his team-mates. "He just looks so dangerous going forward but, at the same time, he is so solid defensively," said Michael Carrick, while Mata offered a more succinct appraisal: "He is a beast."

Unsung hero
Big hair, big impact

It is fair to say that Marouane Fellaini needed time to win over the Old Trafford faithful but the towering Belgian scored in two semi-finals last season – in the English League Cup against Hull City and the UEFA Europa League against Celta – and is a remarkably effective footballer at both ends of the pitch. He underlined his true worth with a brilliant display at the Friends Arena where he won 15 aerial duels – a record for a UEFA Europa League game.

Best opposition player
Talent-spotting opportunities

One of the particularly enjoyable aspects of covering United in the UEFA Europa League was seeing some of the different teams and players operating at a high level away from the UEFA Champions League spotlight. Celta played some fine football at Old Trafford with their Chilean midfielder Pablo Hernández taking a prominent role. When Anderlecht visited, their young midfielder Youri Tielemans (now of Monaco) caught the eye with his precocious ability and reading of the game.

One to watch
The rise of Rashford

Highlights: Manchester United's European set
Highlights: Manchester United's European set

Rashford will continue to capture the imagination of the United crowd in 2017/18. The 19-year-old had a vital part in United's run to the UEFA Europa League final with clinching goals against Celta and Anderlect and finished the overall campaign with 11 in total – a decent return for his first full senior season. There should be more to come from the teenager, who said: "I think my all-round game has improved so much over the last year. I'm doing things that I knew I could always do, but wasn't doing when I was younger."

The new season
Challenges ahead

If Mourinho's first Old Trafford campaign brought two major trophies, the 54-year-old will be determined to steer United to a higher position in the Premier League table, following their sixth-place spot in 2016/17. Another weighty challenge looms in the UEFA Champions League where United have been to just one quarter-final since their last final appearance in 2011. It will also be intriguing to see how Pogba fares in his second full season back at the club; 12 months ago he was carrying the burden of a world-record transfer fee and joined off the back of a long EURO with France, but now he may show the benefits of a full pre-season, not to mention the arrival of his good friend Romelu Lukaku as United's new centre-forward.

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