Tom Cleverley started the 2011/12 season with an absolute bang. He was the main orchestrator of United’s three-goal comeback against a Manchester City side that had just bought Sergio Aguero. United’s midfield was languishing.
Yes, they were the defending champions, but they had only racked up a measly 80
points – barely enough for a Champions League spot in some seasons.
Their win was more down to a stunning lack of inconsistency on the part of all the other teams than anything spectacular United had done. Well, maybe the last part isn’t exactly true because United did make it to the Champions League final before being made to look like schoolchildren by Lionel Messi et al.
Still, may argued that the squad was at the weakest it had ever been. Naturally, when Cleverley returned from Wigan at the start of 11/12, he just had to be better than the current midfield.
Still, there is no arguing that he didn’t start with a series of incredibly impressive performances. He orchestrated a 3-0 thrashing of Tottenham and then went five more in helping thrash Arsenal 8-2.
His form continued for a few more games, claiming the scalp of a thoroughly underwhelming Chelsea side along the way. Then, injury struck. He would spend the next five months on the sidelines. Anderson’s form, which happened to be not horrific for the first time in a while, fell off a cliff. United went into a full-scale nosedive. A star-studded City side 6-1 in possibly Sir Alex’ worst loss whipped them.
Fans called for a speedy Cleverley return. Unfortunately that wasn’t to come.
When he did finally return, he didn’t look the player that he had been five months before. His passes went astray, shots flew far wide of the target, and he just didn’t have the same galvanizing effect on the team that he used to. That form, two years later, still hasn’t returned.
He’s gone from the star-playmaker to the workhorse, the guy who runs back and forth like a mad-man only to have little impact on the game. He isn’t even a starter anymore. True he’s only 24, but he’s a liability when he’s in the team. He offers nothing that another player in the team can’t do better and often is nothing but a hindrance to the team. He doesn’t get goals often and rarely is a game-changing player.
Yes he’s better than Anderson, but there have been calls to sell Anderson for many years.
For some reason, United fans have a skewed perspective when it comes to Cleverley. They hate any call for the management to sell him (probably because he’s home-grown).
Some United fans compare him to Thiago Alcantara. The truth is he’s nowhere near that league. It’s time for the club to accept the truth: Cleverley is not world class and is not the long-term solution to the midfield.
Yes, there are many other players that United should prioritise getting rid of, but keeping Cleverley at the expense of a player like Shinji Kagawa is ludicrous. United need to move on from the outdated thinking that Cleverley is the messiah and the solution to the midfield problem.
Yes, he can have a good game or two, but he will never be a Paul Scholes type player. He is a workhorse and can be a great workhorse, but he just isn’t up to the quality that we have come to expect from United. He’s still young enough that United could recoup a good £15-£20m million from his sale to invest in other youngsters.
Cleverley had his chance and did admirably – just not good enough to play for the best team in England.
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