2021 was unlike any other year for Manchester United in recent memory.
The promise of trophies ended in tears, although the club went through some radical changes and welcomed back some familiar faces as well.
Here’s a look back at United’s ten biggest moments in 2021 as the year comes to a close.
Equalling Premier League’s biggest win
Back in February, United equalled their own Premier League record after thrashing Southampton 9-0.
Alexandre Jankewitz’s red card just two minutes into the game triggered a complete collapse of the Saints defence.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka opened the scoring before Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani found the net with a Jan Bednarek goal sandwiched in between.
After a dull start to the second half, United scored five times in the final 21 minutes.
Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay got into the act before disaster struck again for Southampton as Bednarek became the second player to get sent off.
The nine-man Saints team was then trounced by a merciless United side that saw Martial grab his second and Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James finding the back of the net.
United stun City
In March, United shocked their arch-rivals Manchester City by beating them 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
United’s Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just two minutes and Luke Shaw scored a stunning solo goal in the 5th minute to seal a memorable win on hostile turf for the Red Devils.
Super League protests
United were one of the 12 ‘big clubs’ behind the European Super League (ESL) idea.
The ESL was designed to be contested by 20 elite clubs from Europe as a direct challenge to the existing European club competition, the UEFA Champions League.
The announcement triggered widespread condemnation from all quarters, with fans taking to the streets to vent their anger.
United fans thronged Old Trafford with anti-Glazers banners and chants. The protests continued until United and the rest of the clubs involved in the project withdrew from the competition.
Roma routed again
Serie A side Roma have had their fair share of beatings at Old Trafford.
History repeated itself as the two sides met in the first leg of the Europa League semi-finals.
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes both scored twice while Paul Pogba and mason Greenwood each grabbed one goal apiece as United came from behind to beat Roma 6-2.
Varane meets fans
It was the perfect opening day that United could have hoped for.
The club had completed the signing of Real Madrid and France centre-back Raphael Varane.
Before kick-off, the Frenchman walked on to the pitch in a suit while holding his United shirt as 75,000 people at Old Trafford welcomed their new hero.
Later, United thrashed rivals Leeds United 5-1 to mark a memorable opening day.
The prodigal son returns
The 2021 summer transfer window was one for the ages.
United completed the sensational transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo who returned to Old Trafford 12 years after he had left.
“Manchester United is a club that has always had a special place in my heart, and I have been overwhelmed by all the messages I have received since the announcement on Friday,” he said.
“I cannot wait to play at Old Trafford in front of a full stadium and see all the fans again. I’m looking forward to joining up with the team after the international games, and I hope we have a very successful season ahead.”
His impact was almost immediate as he scored twice on his second debut in the 4-1 Premier League win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford.
New away record
The year 2021 saw United set an impressive Premier League.
After a draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux Stadium, United set the record of the longest unbeaten away record in the league’s history.
With 28 consecutive matches unbeaten on the road, the Red Devils eclipsed Arsenal’s record of 27 matches unbeaten.
Ronaldo rescues United
It was a repeat of the previous season’s Europa League final. United were paired with Villarreal in the same group in the Champions League.
Villarreal attacker Paco Alcacer opened the scoring for the visitors at Old Trafford before a stunning strike from United left-back Alex Telles brought the scores level.
The game was set to end in a draw, but Cristiano Ronaldo had other ideas. The Portuguese superstar scored in the 95th minute to rescue United in a thrilling encounter.
Following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, and the numerous chop and changes under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, United gained some much-needed stability under club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A second placed finish in the league, a Europa League final appearance and a string of stellar signings signalled the start of a stable era.
But a string of poor performances in the latter half of 2021, including a 5-0 drubbing against Liverpool and a 4-1 defeat at Watford, resulted in Ole’s sacking.
In comes Rangnick
Following Solskjaer’s sacking, there were rumours aplenty regarding the potential successor.
The likes of Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax manager Erik ten Hag were tipped to take over the reins at United but United turned to German tactician Ralf Rangnick instead.
Rangnick joined the club as an interim manager until the end of the 2021-22 season.
With four decades of managerial and coaching experience under his belt, plenty of things are expected from the German.
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