Football

Manchester United: Five players with a point to prove

Cleverley must prove a point this season (©GettyImages)
Cleverley must prove a point this season (©GettyImages).

With the new season looming, let us look at five players who will be looking to win over new manager David Moyes, and the Old Trafford faithful, after some disappointing performances last season.

Danny Welbeck

After forming a lethal partnership with Wayne Rooney in the 2011/12 season, where he scored nine goals in the Premier League and a brace against FC Basel in the Champions League, great things were expected of Danny Welbeck last season.

Fast, strong and skilful, the Manchester-born forward put in some good performances but failed to deliver in front of goal, scoring only two goals in 40 appearances. His displays against Real Madrid in the Champions League earned him some plaudits but his failure to find the back of the net on a more consistent basis led to doubts about his striking abilities.

While it would be unfair to question his overall contribution to the team, as a striker, he definitely needs to score more goals. With Wayne Rooney possibly on his way out of Old Trafford, David Moyes will be looking to Welbeck to shoulder goalscoring responsibilities with last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie.

Tom Cleverley

Making his debut in the 2011 Community Shield victory against Manchester City, Cleverley’s performance convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to reward him with a starting spot in each of United’s first four Premier League games that season.

He did not disappoint, proving influential in the 8-2 demolition of Arsenal at Old Trafford. An ankle ligament injury against Bolton in September ruined his season. Though he returned to action in February 2012, he has since struggled for form, looking a shadow of his former self.

Ferguson’s doubts about Cleverley’s inability to impose himself in big games were evident when he picked Phil Jones to partner Michael Carrick in last season’s draw away at Real Madrid, with Cleverley only starting the return leg because of Jones’ unavailability due to a suspension.

With United’s desperate pursuit of Fabregas wielding no results so far, this might be a golden chance for Cleverley to win over new manager David Moyes with some solid displays in the coming season.

Blessed with bundles of energy and an eye for a pass, were the 23-year-old to add consistency to his arsenal, his box-to-box style would perfectly complement the calm passing style of Carrick.

Touted as the future of England’s midfield together with Jack Wilshere, he has an added incentive to nail down a starting spot and learn his trade from the man ranked as the best forward passer in Europe last season.

Shinji Kagawa

The two-time Bundesliga Player of the Year arrived at Old Trafford last season, after helping Borussia Dortmund secure the league and cup double for the first time in their history, scoring 17 goals and claiming 10 assists in 38 starts. Technically gifted, he was signed to fill the gap left by Paul Scholes.

In his debut season in England, Kagawa showed glimpses of his talent but was unable to put in consistent performances and nail down a regular starting spot. The best example of his brilliance came in the 4-0 win against Norwich, where he bagged a hat-trick and tormented their defence throughout the game.

He also successfully completed 89.7% of the passes he attempted last season, second only to the legendary Scholes (92.4%) and Cleverly (90.5%).

With Moyes’ failure to land Fabregas from Barcelona and Rooney seemingly headed for the exit, the Japanese midfield maestro would have to be at his creative best for United to successfully retain their title.

Nani

The man once tasked to fill the boots of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani has had a time of mixed fortunes at the Theatre of Dreams. A nightmare for defenders with his blistering pace and trickery, he can be equally as frustrating for his team-mates due to his wastefulness in possession and reluctance to track back to defend.

The highlight of his United career has to be the game against Arsenal at the Emirates in January 2010, where he ran Gael Clichy ragged and played an influential role in the 3-1 away win. By the end of the season, he was top of the Premier League’s assist charts with 18 assists and had also scored nine goals along the way.

However, after that season, his form has continued to fluctuate. Hindered by injuries and unable to fully win over Sir Alex Ferguson, the Portuguese has so far failed to live up to his promise.

Believed by many to be more talented than both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, due to his unpredictability and superior technique, Nani has the potential to become one of the best wingers in the world if he can improve his decision making and consistency.

Constantly linked away from Old Trafford for the past few seasons, this season might be Nani’s last chance to prove his doubters wrong and win over new manager David Moyes and fans alike.

Alexander Buttner

Signed in the same transfer window as Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, Buttner arrived at Old Trafford a relative unknown. Often linked to Everton’s Leighton Baines, not many understood why Ferguson had instead gone for this young left-back from Vitesse Arnhem who had scored five goals in 32 games in his final season there.

Brought in to provide some cover for the ageing Patrice Evra, the Dutchman has had an indifferent debut season. While not exactly a failure, he hasn’t really been a success either.

Eager to go forward and join in the attack, his style of play does bear some resemblance to a younger Evra. Due to his past as a left-midfielder, his forays into the opposition half often cause him to leave a gap at the back. Full of tricks and feints to get past his man, Buttner packs a wicked left foot, capable of both scoring himself and providing crosses for teammates. At only 23-years-old, many argue that he has time on his side to develop the defensive side of his game.

But with United still being linked to Baines, whether they are simply rumours or former Toffees boss Moyes indeed wishes to once again reunite with the player he brought to Everton, Buttner may not have that much time to prove himself to his new manager after all.

Should Baines move to United, it would only increase the competition for places at left-back, pushing the Dutchman further down the pecking order. However, if that does not happen, this might be the opportunity he needs to make the left-back spot his own.

 

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Topics:
Shinji Kagawa
Danny Welbeck
Nani
Football
Tom Cleverley
Luis Nani
Manchester United

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