The manner in which circumstances can change with the passage of time is absolutely remarkable. It is fair to say at the end of the last season the futures of Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini were very much in doubt. Any future prospect of gaining traction at United lay in tatters, both men roundly mocked by fans and pundits alike.
Young was a despised diver-in-chief, roundly dismissed as a desperate cheat, who resorted to dark arts because his football had regressed to run of the mill back passes and an infuriating reluctance to take his man on - the wings of the former Aston Villa high flier seemingly clipped.
Young celebrates United's leveler against City on Sunday. Courtesy of J.Peters Getty Images
Fellaini had the undistinguished honor of being a David Moyes signing in an utterly botched transfer window – immediately labeled a panic buy. His clumsy displays in a deeper role didn’t help his cause either, at times he looked liked he’d never kicked a ball. His huge frame and unorthodox style of chest footy made him look amateurish as he ambled about the pitch.
Mata, to a lesser extent, was always under suspicion from some segments of United supporters. They distrusted his overall effectiveness, being that he was a Mourinho outcast, which usually meant that a player did not have the discipline, or willingness, to carry out the more sturdy duties on the field. He had the reputation of possessing the necessary guile, but was a bit of a lightweight and let large swaths of pitch go untended without the necessary defensive contribution.
Chris Smalling’s moment of madness in the last Manchester Derby at the Etihad, got Red Devils fans frustrated as United finally seemed to be finally standing their ground against their nouveau riche noisy city rivals on that day. The 10 Reds lost to City by a lone goal. Many reds swore he was, and will never be United caliber. They sneered at his non-league humble beginnings. The Fulham recruit was formerly a Maidstone United player. Like all the aforementioned players, Smalling was going through a crisis of confidence – and it showed.