We’ve all seen the demise of Manchester United so far this season. To not be only out of the title race, but struggling to get into the top four is unheard of! The team lost not only the manager and the backroom staff but also United lost arguably the best central midfielder the Premier League has seen; Paul Scholes.
Currently United midfield has crumbled under the lack of quality, they are easy to counter against, slow to attack and lack any real leaders. Michael Carrick has shown his quality but is a player that connects the play and isn’t so much of a grafter. A lot of questions have been asked about the quality of Tom Cleverley. Some have come to his defence, as some of the statistics are positive, for example his pass accuracy so far this season is 90%! This is only 3% lower than Flamini’s 93% accuracy rate who is currently top of the list in the league and he would make the 10 ten best in La Liga. But the other side of the argument is he is a player that passes side to side and fails largely with forwards passes that are the most important. This is shown by having only created 7 chances via a key pass and still has not a single assists this season.
A Role model Cleverley should look to is that of Darren Fletcher. At the start of Fletcher’s career he received a large amount of criticism and the opinion was largely that he was not of a Man United standard. But through the years from his hard work ethic, tackling and discipline won over probably all the critics and Man United fans who thought he wasn't good enough. Many have said to me “What does Cleverley actually do? He doesn't tackle, doesn't score and doesn't assist.” Cleverley needs to learn the art of pressure but also to stand up and be counted, he has the quality to pass and to be a crucial part of the United midfield, but what he has to do is to become the grit and determined part of that midfield, a player who will not be afraid and to be willing to win the ball up field, helping to push the team forward. Fletcher before his illness was one of the few players that would be on the starting eleven every time in the big games. He does the simple stuff easily and then the rest follows as players like Carrick and Rooney can add that quality that makes the next step easier.
The bigger picture for Manchester United is worrying; the classic style that is Man Utd consists of strong, wingers with pace, a tackler and maestro in the centre. We all remember the Champions League semi-final at the Emirates where the two R’s (Rooney and Ronaldo) go from a corner to Arsenal and in a few touches to score and finish the tie. These days United move very slowly, Valencia a player who can take on a defender or two but rarely changes pace, or to throw in a step over that a current winger needs to do. Ashley Young blows hot and cold like a dodgy shower and it seems either through injury or other circumstances we haven’t seen much of Nani or Zaha this season. The only player with a spark and actual attacking intent has been the young star Adnan Januzaj.
The modern team need an attacking midfielder, usually just behind the striker which Rooney owns every time he’s on the pitch and the other original attacking midfielder; Kagawa we haven’t seen him take his chances and as he has also expressed he needs to strengthen to match that to compete in the Premier League. After being linked with every midfielder out there like Cabaye, Mata, Reus, Vidal and so on. All of them would have an impact and definitely improve the current squad. But To fit some of them in, a change of system and style would need to be considered. Another problem is as its January, most transfers probably won’t happen till the summer, David Moyes should look at what he has and do what Ferguson did time and time again. Turn what seems a team of mediocre players and turning them into crucial players with the United Philosophy, to believe and fight to the end. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but being the club that they are, United should have the staff available to do it. Moyes also should look back at United’s history, as they have rarely gone for star players, in the past Ferguson and Busby had gone for the cheaper option and worked hard with who they already have, whether it’s a youngster or a player that just needs tinkering. Moyes should look into putting some faith in the youngsters and Tom Cleveley as he could become the next Darren Fletcher.