Thursday, 16 April 2009

Who should win the PFA Player of the Year award?

This week, the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year was revealed and, in all honesty, it contained very few surprises. Manchester United dominate the list with defenders, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, keeping midfield legend Ryan Giggs company in a line-up which also boasts Cristiano Ronaldo, Edwin van der Sar, and Steven Gerrard (the only non-United player to merit inclusion).

The shortlist may have provided shocking reading had the voting not occurred prior to the beginning of United's alarming dip in form, which saw Vidic turn from hero to zero within the space of one match and Edwin van der Sar put in some uncharactertistic performances that really made him look his age.

So, who deserves to win this award? Well, firstly, let's rule out Cristiano Ronaldo. It's fair to say that he has scored some important, and spectacular, goals this season (last night's screamer against FC Porto is a fine example) but his effort levels have been questioned this season and he has gone missing on the pitch far too often during United's Premier League campaign. It seems that his mind is elsewhere and the young star should perhaps spend more time pondering his team play than he seems to spend thinking about what hair gel to use.

Ryan Giggs hasn't suffered from such problems. As ever, the dedicated professional's work ethic has been exceptional. However, handing him the award at this stage in his career would smack of nostalgia (he has never won before) and this is something that football should avoid at all costs.

Edwin van der Sar has, on the whole, been magnificent between the sticks for the Red Devils but United's impressive run of clean sheets seen in the league earlier this season had a lot to do with the resilience of the back four. Rewarding van der Sar for this run of form may therefore be detracting from what was a fine spell for the defensive unit as a whole.

So, that leaves Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard. Ferdinand has had his moments of brilliance this season and he has truly led from the back. However, in my opinion, Steven Gerrard deserves the award. He has single-handedly dragged Liverpool through matches at times, as he has in many other seasons, and the club's rise to the pinnacle of the league has been largely thanks to his talent, work ethic, and leadership on the pitch.

He is one of those players who defenders really can't afford to lose track of at any point during a game. It took a monumental effort from Chelsea midfield star, Michael Essien, to keep him quiet during the Champions League match at Anfield and the fact that tactical genius, Guus Hiddink, believed the Liverpool captain was worth man-marking proves how valuable Gerrard is as a midfield force.

If Gerrard does win the award, it is likely that Ferguson will have some complaints to make but this shouldn't detract from the fact that Liverpool's influential captain deserves recognition for his talent.

Whilst we're discussing awards, my football prediction for the winner of the PFA young player of the year award is Manchester City's talented youngster, Stephen Ireland.

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