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Men's PFA Young Player of the Year

Men's PFA Young Player of the Year

Trent Alexander-Arnold - Liverpool

Living at home, his humble roots and passion for the club are evident every time he steps across the white line. Like many modern full-backs, Alexander-Arnold enjoys his role going forward, but his defensive astuteness has contributed to a high number of clean sheets this season.

A strong runner down the flanks, his ability to deliver precise crosses has also yielded a number of goals for his club this season.

Since being thrown in at the deep end for his Premier League debut – at Old Trafford against fierce rivals Manchester United – the 2018 Golden Boy runner-up has come on in leaps and bounds, and, in doing so, has impressed former United right-back Gary Neville. “He’s got a big career in front of him. He’ll grow, mature, get better and better in all areas of the game. I’ve been impressed with him since his very first Premier League game at Old Trafford,” said Neville, who won 85 caps for England in his position.

A man-of-the-match performance against Watford demonstrated his natural eye for a cross as he became the youngest player in Premier League history to record a hattrick of assists – a feat Reds manager Jürgen Klopp described as “special”.

David Brooks - AFC Bournemouth

David Brooks surpassed the likes of Ryan Giggs, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey by becoming the first player in history to win the Wales player and young player of the year awards in the same year.

The Warrington-born midfielder has made the transition from Championship football to England’s top flight look remarkably easy with his graceful, composed style of play.

Brooks has become a mainstay in a Bournemouth team that has brushed aside some of the Premier League’s top sides, and one of his finest performances came in the Cherries’ 4-0 win over Chelsea in January. He played an exquisite pass for Joshua King to open the scoring, deftly controlling the ball with his first touch before carving Chelsea open with his second, and he scored one of his own in the second half, turning David Luiz before firing low into the corner of the net.

Brooks admitted his first season in the top flight has gone even better than he expected, telling BBC Sport: “It has been a bit of a whirlwind of a season making the transition to playing in the Premier League and also playing for Wales as well.” “It has been a really good year and one that people probably wouldn’t have anticipated. Hopefully it can get even better. “If you ask any young boy what they wanted to do in their football career, they will tell you they want the Premier League and to play at the highest level possible.”

Marcus Rashford - Manchester Utd

Such is Rashford’s importance to the club, it is hard to believe he will not turn 22 until the end of October and his performances in 2018-19 have only strengthened the belief around Old Trafford that he can become a United great.

After impressing for England at the World Cup Finals in Russia, he scored in back-to-back games against Spain, in the UEFA Nations League, and Switzerland, in a friendly. Rashford scored six goals in Solksjaer’s first eight league games in charge as a team dubbed negative and defensive under Mourinho transformed into one of the league’s most deadly sides.

When Paul Pogba received the ball in his own half one minute before half-time in United’s clash with Tottenham at Wembley in January, Rashford darted forward with such pace that by the time the ball reached his feet, he was already beyond Jan Vertonghen and he went on to fire low into the far corner of the net.

That goal epitomised Rashford’s strengths – lightning acceleration, innate confidence and an unquenchable thirst to attack – and he was duly rewarded with his first Premier League Player of the Month award.

In February he became the second youngest player after Ryan Giggs to make 100 league appearances for Utd and duly marked the occasion with a goal at Leicester. The following month Rashford completed another first by netting his first penalty in a competitive first-team game in the dramatic Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, his 94th-minute spot-kick sending United into the quarterfinals on away goals.

It was a goal that marked Rashford’s maturity as he took responsibility for the club’s fortunes in the tensest circumstances imaginable, displaying a confidence that has been increasingly evident since Solskjaer’s arrival.

Declan Rice - West Ham Utd

Rice has excelled since joining the West Ham Utd academy and improved season after season at Chadwell Heath, until catching the eye of former Hammer Nigel Reo-Coker, who says it took him all of five minutes to notice Rice’s talent in a training session and quickly passed the word on.

He signed his fi rst professional contract in December 2015 and made his senior debut on the final day of the 2016-17 season, after shining for the Hammers’ under-23 team.

Rice’s ability to play in a holding role in midfield or to drop back into defence has been hugely beneficial to the Hammers this campaign. His eye for breaking up play and unleashing a sniping through ball has been vital to the East London club’s success and he admits that playing in the centre of the park is where he prefers.

It is the position which the 20-year-old’s mentor, former England international and Hammers favourite Matthew Upson, believes utilises his strengths best.

“The midfield role has suited his skillset more,” Upson said. “He reads things very well, takes up good early positions and fills spaces. His positional decision-making is very mature and seems to come naturally to him.”

Raheem Sterling - Manchester City

It seems remarkable that Sterling is just 24 years old, having racked up over 300 club appearances and is fast approaching a century of goals in all competitions.

But outside of his stunning statistics, the England international’s ability to find and create space for his teammates has highlighted him as one of Europe’s elite forwards under manager Pep Guardiola.

Sterling has also mastered the ability of popping up with big goals in crucial matches, notching against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton this season.

Few could argue that the Jamaican-born England international isn’t ice-cool under pressure, having slammed home a stunning penalty to clinch Manchester City’s first trophy of the season in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea in February.

Having scored 23 goals in 46 matches last season in all competitions, Sterling is well on his way to smashing his personal best, having already reached 20 goals with over a month of the season remaining to put City within sight of the Premier League Trophy.

Bernardo Silva - Manchester City

Silva has taken his opportunities this season becoming a regular fixture in City’s starting eleven delivering outstanding performances.

That City’s top brass saw fit to tie the 24-year-old down to a contract that runs until 2025 is a measure of the esteem in which he is held at the Etihad Stadium, where he has impressed in almost every position across the City midfield and attack. Pep Guardiola made no secret of his preferred role for the Lisbon-born playmaker, telling The Guardian: “I think as a No.10 behind the striker is his natural game, but as a winger he can move inside or stay wide”.

He can play in all attacking positions in the middle – in three or four positions. “He knows when he doesn’t play good. But he’s nearly always an eight or a nine. You cannot play every single game every three days at the top level, but he runs and runs. Maybe this season he’s been one or two of the best players in the Premier League.”

Silva had a hand in 21 goals across City’s first 41 games of the season, during which time the club sustained aspirations to achieve a historic quadruple, and he matched his 2017-18 goal tally in all competitions by February.

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