Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Stoke City on Saturday afternoon was yet another reminder to David Moyes’ side just how bad the central midfield area really is.
And no player received scathing criticism like Tom Cleverley, who, after another drab, insipid display, felt the wrath of both fans and pundits alike.
With Anderson becoming the first player to depart, tying up a loan move to Italian side Fiorentina, it begs the question whether it should have been Cleverley to go first. Did United initially get rid of the wrong midfielder?
Anderson, at least, put in the occasional good performances. Injuries marred his Old Trafford career, but there were several highlights.
He dominated Steven Gerrard in United’s 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2007, scored a penalty in the 2008 Champions League final and was outstanding in United’s 3-1 thumping of Arsenal in May the following year.
Though certainly not ‘better than Rooney’ as Sir Alex Ferguson’s brother Martin told him during the Brazilian’s Porto days, there were at least some reasons to smile during his tenure at the club.
He always played with a grin and was a popular figure in the dressing room. His approach off the field was often criticised, but there could be no doubting his love for the game on it.
Cleverley, on the other hand, has given supporters little reason to cheer since his explosive debut against Manchester City in 2011.
Like Anderson, injuries have restricted his progress, but there is no excuse for him not to be the player that shone on loan at Watford and Wigan.
Goals are too far and few between with just one for the campaign thus far, the third in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa in December.
At the Britannia Stadium on Saturday he was abysmal , failing to dominate the midfield and spooning an opportunity over the bar when it looked easier to score.
If his performances do not improve, then Cleverley is surely expected to join Anderson in leaving Old Trafford.
No tears will be shed if, ultimately, he does not make the grade.
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