Player-by-player reviews 2012-2013: Part one

Posted by Mark Payne

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesDavid de Gea solidified his place as United's No. 1 after showing massive improvement in his second season at Old Trafford.

David de Gea: 8

A much better season for the Spaniard and he has seized his opportunity to become the undisputed number one. De Gea's improvement is an ode to hard work as he has clearly taken on board the criticism from last term and learnt from it. Additionally, he has spent a lot of time in the gym and is a much more formidable presence than he was 18 months ago. The best part is that he can still get better.

Anders Lindergaard: 5.5

Last August, Lindergaard and de Gea were on an equal footing with the manager, but the goalkeeper rotation policy earlier in the season backfired badly. United found themselves behind in too many games and the team was guilty of some calamitous defending.

By far the most troubling was conceding three goals in the first 25 minutes at Reading. Lindergaard rarely featured after that. He was in goal for the last game of the season, too and conceded five. A player who will be happy to put this campaign behind him.

Patrice Evra: 8

A vintage season from Evra. The arrival of a challenger for his left-back spot has invigorated the Frenchman and this was his best campaign since 2008. Not only has the France left-back been a continual threat from the flank, he has also chipped in with four goals and, with 34 performances, played more games than any other defender.

Nemanja Vidic: 7.5

There were times last autumn when Vidic's knee buckled again and things looked grim for the captain. Fortunately, he was given the proper rest for his current comeback and has centre-half returned forcefully.

In the second half of the season Vidic's games were handled carefully and his performances were consistently strong. He may not have 38 games a season in him anymore, but he is still a formidable defender.

Rio Ferdinand: 8

Ferdinand also enjoyed his best campaign since 2008 and, with 28 performances, put in a very respectable shift. There is no doubting the overwhelming class of Ferdinand at his best, and he continues to have a calming effect on his defensive colleagues when on the field.

David Moyes' first act as United manager was to sign off on Ferdinand's new contract and it was good business all round. With the defender definitely retired from England duty, United now have a quality player all to themselves.

Johnny Evans: 7.5

The Michael Carrick of the defence. Another season pockmarked by injury but one that showed increasing composure. It is now accepted that Evans is an able deputy for Ferdinand when the veteran is out, and his passing exudes a calmness that was not always present in previous campaigns. He is now one of the squad's most reliable performers.

Rafael: 8.5

The Brazilian's best season so far. His campaign included several stupendous performances and his attitude and work-rate invigorated the rest of the team at times. Never one to accept that a cause is lost and equally adept at tackling back as chasing forward. There are still signs that he can lose his rag when provoked, but his composure in the second half against Madrid in the Bernabeu was heroic. Much more of this and the term 'world-class' will be attached to him regularly.

Chris Smalling: 6

Too unfit too much of the time. It is hard to remember a significant contribution he made all campaign and he only started ten games this season. Smalling has all the potential in the world, perhaps more than any of the other young defenders at the club, but he is running out of opportunities to prove his quality.

Alexander Buttner: 6.5

Buttner has managed to plunder two goals in his four starts for the club and his left boot has certainly got some protein in it. It is hard to recall anything outstanding he has done in a defensive sense though. Perhaps his greatest contribution was putting the wind up Patrice Evra, whose performances improved immeasurably after his arrival.

Phil Jones: 7.5

Again, Jones was injured for large periods and unable to impose himself on the team. Fergie rated him highly but seemed indecisive about what to do with him. Hopefully, under Moyes, Jones can just pick a position and play in it. Midfield is a decent shout for him, but if, as expected, Marouane Fellaini arrives, it could be another season spent as a utility player for him next time around.

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