After another unconvincing performance against Sunderland, Tom Cleverley is at a crossroads in his career.
The 24 year-old has been in the United first team for the last 3 years. After bursting onto the scene in the 2011 Community Shield against Manchester City along with Welbeck to come back from 1-0 down, the England midfielder has failed to progress into the player everyone was hoping for.
Although it's still fairly early in his career, Cleverley will be looking to improve his game in all areas, as his place in the England team is looking under threat, as is his spot in the United team.
He may divide opinion, but Cleverley is undeniably one of the best English players in the country when it comes to ball retention. He doesn't often lose the ball and one of his best attributes is how he keeps the movements of his team flowing. He rarely takes more then two touches unless he goes on a dribble which is quite rare in England's crop of players.
He has proven he can compete with the best, too. The problem with anyone involved in football or in love with the game is that we tend to have short memories. It was only last year when England played Brazil at Wembley when Cleverley partnered with Wilshere and had an outstanding game against arguably the favourites for the next World Cup. He was also outstanding against Real Madrid, proving he can reach the very top.
Consistency has been Cleverley's biggest problem. At times he can exhilarating, but just like against Sunderland, he can look out of his depth. Against Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, he couldn't keep the ball as he seemed to panic under pressure and he couldn't help his team in any positive way.
Evidently, it hasn't just been Cleverley who has under-performed so far this season but it's a worry for him, as along with Anderson, he seems to be quite easily replaceable if United run out of patience with him.
He also has to improve with his finishing. Scoring four goals last season, wasn't really good enough if you compare the amount of chances he had. He has also spurred many chances for England which hasn't helped critics get off his back. Is he an attacking-midfielder or a defensive-midfielder? Or could he be a box-to-box midfielder? Cleverley seems to lack a bit of identity which is a shame as he has a unique technique when he plays long balls.
Cleverley has a chance in the next few weeks, whether he gets to start for England or not, to really stamp his authority on the United team. With the Red Devils crying out for a creative midfielder and some imagination, he must prove he is up to the challenge. With Fellaini seemingly to be out for an indefinite period due to a wrist injury, he may just have a chance to prove to new United manager, David Moyes, that he can improve with time.
He may seek assurance in the turnaround of Aaron Ramsey's form, but he doesn't have time on his side unlike the Welshman, with Moyes analysing his squad this season with wholesale changed expected next summer as he shapes his squad into his own.
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