Tom Cleverley’s introduction against Manchester City was when United started to play football. His neat passing and quick movement allowed United to build more possession in the last 30 minutes than they had in the hour beforehand.
In his half hour cameo, Cleverley managed to complete 40 more passes than Ashley Young had in a full hour.
His presence in the midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick stopped City’s dominant duo Fernandinho and Yaya Toure from dictating the game. Although they had taken their foot off the gas at 4-0, United certainly played much better with Cleverley on the pitch.
The 24-year-old has slipped out of favour with David Moyes since the arrival of Fellaini. Whereas he started every game before he joined, Cleverley’s minutes have been reduced to substitute appearances with Fellaini preferred in a midfield pairing with Carrick.
Cleverley showed two things against City. Firstly, that he thrives in a midfield three and secondly, that Moyes got it tactically wrong against City.
By packing the midfield, Yaya Toure wasn’t able to influence proceedings and he was their linchpin. When he was kept quiet, City were forced to sit deep and counter.
United’s wingers were ineffective on the day and Moyes should have changed the shape at half time instead of waiting until the game was out of our reach.
There have been plenty of question marks about the future of Cleverley and whether he has the ability to forge a career at United, but there is still plenty of promise to suggest there could be.
He plays his best football when not restricted in a midfield pairing (Newcastle away ’12 springs to mind) and given how ineffective the 4-4-2 has been on a number of occasions so far this season for United, Moyes may try something new against Liverpool on Wednesday as the repair work from Sunday begins and Cleverley may get another chance to show why he should be a regular starter.
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