Tom Cleverley is a player who causes a big divide between Manchester United fans. Some are keen to see him get a decent run of games so he can prove his worth to the side, whilst others believe he isn’t good enough to be a United player.
He’s certainly had some peaks and troughs in performance levels over the past couple of seasons but against Shakhtar Donetsk, he showed just how good he can be when the team is set-up to compliment his style.
Cleverley should not be used in a midfield twosome. It doesn’t play to his strengths at all. Cleverley shines when he is played as part of a midfield three rather than the rigid nature of playing alongside one other central midfielder.
Against Donetsk, he showcased everything he has in the locker. Fantastic passing, interchanging, tackling, covering and bite were all enveloped in a high tempo performance – all because he was given a degree of freedom.
Michael Carrick had his best performance of the season so far in a deep lying defensive role in front of the back four and it gave Cleverley the ability to roam forward. He didn’t have to worry about sprinting back because he knew that Carrick was there to protect the defence. He could concentrate on a high pressing game without the ball safe in the knowledge that Carrick was behind him.
Rewind to Newcastle away (2012) and the Community Shield (2011). Both performances were outstanding from Cleverley as part of a midfield trio. His performance at St James’ Park was one of his best in a United shirt and it culminated in a stunning goal/cross on the day.
David Moyes showed his tactical flexibility last night by putting three midfielders out and United reaped the rewards. We dominated the majority of the game and our defence was never exposed at any point thanks to Carrick.
Cleverley was dropped from the starting XI after the arrival of Fellaini but Moyes should think about switching to a midfield trio more often if he wants to get the best out of Cleverley.