When David Moyes took over at Manchester United it didn’t take him long to establish where he felt the champions needed to be strengthened.
Marouane Fellaini was the only senior player that Scot managed to add to his squad over the summer, in a £27.5 million move from Everton, whilst moves for Thiago, Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric, Sami Khedira, Danielle De Rossi and Ander Herrera all proved unsuccessful.
It’s apparent that Moyes feels his current midfield options are not enough to withstand the types of challenge United will face both domestically and in Europe.
Last season’s Players' Player of the Year Michael Carrick has been the mainstay in the centre of the park since his arrival from Tottenham Hotspur, producing consistent performances of a high standard, though at 32 he won’t be around forever.
There appears to be no real prospect of Darren Fletcher making a full return to the United first-team any time soon, although the Scot did make the 25-man Premier League squad and Ryan Giggs looks set to be in his last season at the age of 39, having taken up partial coaching duties already.
That leaves Anderson and Cleverley as United’s midfield options for the future and while the Brazilian extends his seemingly permanent stay in the last chance saloon, it’s the Bradford-born academy graduate that the spotlight is falling on.
Having started each of United’s games so far, things could have been very different for Cleverley had the deadline day move for Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera not collapsed in such bizarre circumstances. With a buyout fee of £30.5 million, the Spaniard would clearly have been an intended first choice for Moyes pushing Cleverley back to fourth in the pecking order.
Moyes and United are still said to be keen on Herrera and could be back in for the 24-year-old when the January transfer window opens, leaving Cleverley four months to prove to Moyes that he’s got the quality to be a Manchester United midfielder for years to come.
After bursting on to the scene with some impressive performances two seasons ago Cleverley hasn’t yet kicked on to the next level and his lack of progress is something of a cause for concern, a point seemingly echoed by Moyes’ transfer activity.
Despite having a greater amount of freedom to get forward, often playing alongside the holding Carrick, Cleverley only managed to directly contribute to seven goals (four goals and three assists) in 32 appearances last term.
Aesthetically pleasing and technically comfortable on the ball with the engine to get around the park Cleverley ticks most of the boxes on paper but fails to turn potential into performance failing to significantly impact games.
In the big games he can lack composure on the ball, seemingly hurried in possession wanting to get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it and is often suspect defensively. Against the ‘lesser’ sides when United have the majority of possession, Cleverley often struggles to really hurt the opposition by making significant contributions in the final third.
At 24, Cleverley is moving into his third full season as part of the first team setup and still has time to develop his game and reach the potential he clearly possesses.
That time could be becoming ever more precious however and the former Wigan loanee will need to step up his game to make sure he becomes an integral part of Moyes’ plan and more so than Carrick and Anderson.
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