The 2022 FIFA World Cup, held in Qatar, has been one of the single biggest global talking points throughout the last six weeks. Being the first-ever World Cup to be held in the winter due to weather conditions, it was no less short of drama, excitement, intrigue and upset.
Manchester United had 16 players initially representing the Red Devils across the five-week tournament (including on-loan Alex Telles and Hannibal Mejbri), with this number cut to 15 shortly after the World Cup’s commencement after Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with the club was terminated due to a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.
After the termination of Ronaldo’s contract, only Manchester City had more players at the World Cup than Manchester United (16).
These 15 players were spread across nine countries: England, Brazil, France, Denmark, Tunisia, the Netherlands, Argentina, Uruguay, and Portugal. Of these nine nations, six made it through the group stage, leaving 11 players remaining for the knockout rounds: Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Antony, Fred, Casemiro, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez, Diogo Dalot & Bruno Fernandes. Despite Brazil qualifying, Alex Telles had to withdraw from the squad due to injury.
In the group stages, there were two standout players: Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro. Both played crucial roles for their respective countries, with Fernandes grabbing two goals and two assists in the opening two games, and Casemiro scoring an 83rd-minute winner against Switzerland to confirm Brazil’s place in the knockout stage.
After the round of 16 was completed, amazingly, all 11 Manchester United players had made it through to the final eight countries of the competition – four of them being summer signings by Erik ten Hag.
But, come the semi-finals, only two remained.
The quarter-finals saw some historic results – Portugal exited after a 1-0 defeat to Morocco, Brazil were eliminated on penalties by Croatia, the Netherlands crashed out the same way against Argentina, and England were knocked out by current holders France in a tense 2-1 victory for Les Bleus. All four sides knocked out at this stage contained at least one Manchester United player.
Come semi-finals time, it was Erik ten Hag’s preferred centre-back partnership that kept flying the Red Devil flag: Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane. After neither player started their respective teams’ opening fixture, both played had by this point implemented themselves as integral to the starting XIs, and it is no surprise that both players then aided in their respective team’s progression to the final.
France, who looked impressive all tournament, booked their ticket to the final in a 2-0 win over underdogs Morocco, and Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 in a performance that looked entirely different to their opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia.
The day that comes only once every four years had finally come to pass: the World Cup final. Manchester United, at this point, were guaranteed a World Cup winner with one of either Varane or Martinez set to be holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy on Sunday evening.
The final was an all-time classic. After Argentina claimed an early lead through a Lionel Messi penalty, they doubled their advantage with a lovely sweeping move before half-time. Come 80 minutes, everyone thought it was over until superstar Kylian Mbappe won and scored a penalty before smashing home a lovely volley just minutes later to tie the game 2-2 after 90 minutes.
What then ensued was a second goal for Messi and another Mbappe penalty to bring the game to penalties, which Argentina triumphed 4-2.
Which Manchester United player played best during the World Cup?
Many of Manchester United’s best players featured in the World Cup, and the top performers in the competition from the squad are clear: Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Marcus Rashford, Lisandro Martinez, and Raphael Varane.
Although other notable shouts include Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, and Luke Shaw, these three did not have the same incredible impact that the aforementioned five did.
According to the football statistics website SofaScore, Bruno Fernandes was the top player in the entire tournament, with two goals and three assists across the six matches Portugal played.
Casemiro was brilliant for Brazil, scoring a winning goal against Switzerland and bringing his ever-fantastic energy and presence to their midfield. Marcus Rashford, despite only starting once for England, scored three fantastic goals, including a world-class free kick against Wales in the group stage.
Lisandro Martinez, despite not being a regular starter for Argentina, had some crucial moments for them, including a match-winning block against Australia. Raphael Varane started every game for France apart from their opening fixture, and it was his pass that opened up Morocco for France’s opening goal in the semi-finals.
Overall, the award for Manchester United’s best player at the 2022 Qatar World Cup has to go to Bruno Fernandes. Off the back of some good form for Manchester United ahead of the tournament, Fernandes carried this through onto the international stage, dazzling the crowds with his goals and assists, and although Portugal didn’t make it past the final eight of the competition, on an individual level, Fernandes was outstanding.
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